SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
For 37 years, St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda)
legendary boys basketball coach Don Lippi has preached the "sum of all parts," and "winning the little battles."
The Pilots from Alameda (26-9) needed all of them to record his 800th game and the program's sixth state title with thrilling 55-50 Division V finals win Thursday afternoon over a fast and battle-tested St. Bernard (Playa del Rey)
team at Sleep Train Arena.
The team's top three players —
(21 points), Darne Duckett
(14) and Adam Campos
(12) — did their part, but a couple three-pointers early by Avery Dueberry
and two improbable free throws late by 5-foot-6 freshman Kobe Keiner
clinched the hard-earned win.
"I've never made a basket and never grabbed a rebound in any of them," Lippi said. "All of them we made by the kids. The team has 800 wins."
But Lippi knew who to call on and what just to say when Smith, a terrific 6-foot-3 junior guard, was fouled hard with 11.1 seconds left and the Pilots holding a 52-50 lead. Smith went down in a heap, a trainer was called to the floor, meaning he had to come out.
Lippi handpicked Keiner, a sharpshooter to be sure, but who had not played a tick in the game. Or many recently. "I've been shooting free throws real good in practice," he said. "No, I definitely wasn't thinking I'd be in during that spot."
Lippi pulled Keiner aside and told him: "You're a freshman. Whether you make two or miss two, you'll still one of the best freshmen around. You're going to be fine."
Keiner, who didn't practice any free throws at halftime, bounced in the first of the one-and-one chance, and swished the second. After a turnover, this one was over, the Pilots' second title in three years and third in six.
"The kid has guts," Lippi said of Keiner.
Said Keiner: "I felt relaxed. I was pretty sure I could make them."
Said Smith: "I had confidence in him. He's a real good shooter."
So is Smith, who made two of St. Joseph's six three-pointers, leading the Pilots to a 31-24 halftime lead.
St. Bernard (19-17), after its first title, made several runs and actually tied the game at 44 after two free throws and a three-pointer by Julian Ross
to start the fourth quarter.
Smith, who added a game-high 11 rebounds, answered with a three-pointer and two free throws and St. Joseph would never relinquish the lead. An impressive driving layup by Campos, a 6-5 freshman, with 2:12 left helped keep the Pilots in front. Robert Fuller
, a quick 5-11 senior guard, and Ross, a 6-4 senior, had 15 points apiece for the Vikings.
"It was hard to overcome their early three-point shooting," St. Bernard coach Patrick Lynch said. "I'm not surprised we fought back. We've fought back like this all season. St. Joseph did a great job down the stretch. They have a great coach. We have nothing to be ashamed of."