Mitty repeats in Division II with Aaron Gordon leading the way. NorCal wins in Division IV as well with Salesian of Richmond topping Price.
The CIF Division IV and Division II state title games in boys basketball were played at Power Balance Arena in Sacramento. The Division I, Division III and Division V titles will be decided on Saturday.
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 78, La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 57
It was a vintage performance for Aaron Gordon, one of the nation’s top-ranked juniors, and the rest of the Monarchs’ starting lineup.
The 6-foot-8 point forward dominated the boards, nailed a couple of 3-pointers and scored a game-high 33 points. Gordon’s point total makes the top 10 on the all-time state title game list. He also grabbed 20 rebounds, one short of the Division II record he tied last season.
With the win, Mitty won its second straight CIF state title and joined the girls as a state titlist as well. The school has been the Cal-Hi Sports Division II State School of the Year for seven years in a row, but this is the first time that the Monarchs have pulled off the boys-girls state title sweep in basketball.
The Monarchs (31-3) should move up from the No. 35 spot they occupied in this week’s POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings, but may not move up from being No. 3 in the state. Salesian of Richmond, ranked No. 2, also won in its state final on Friday while No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana is favored to win in the CIF Division I state championship on Saturday when it faces Sheldon of Sacramento.
"He's been able to put up big numbers, but when you see he's getting double- and triple-teamed, he needs a supporting cast,” said Mitty coach Tim Kennedy. "You've got to be happy to play one of your best games at the end but I still didn’t think we'd win that easily.
La Costa Canyon (34-3), making its first trip to the state finals and hoping to set a new San Diego Section record for most wins in a season, couldn’t get closer in the second-half than six points.
In the first half, the Monarchs did not trail. They took an 18-12 lead on 3-pointers by Thomas Peters to end the first quarter and to start the second. They extended their advantage to 33-21 on baskets by Gordon, one of which was a 3-pointer.
In addition to Peters, who had nine points, all of Mitty’s other starters and even Connor Peterson off the bench, hit for key buckets in the second half when the Monarchs pulled away.
Senior forward Neil Vranicar was the team’s second-leading scorer with 14 points. Senior guard Jack Biebel had nine points while the other starter, senior Jordan White, contributed six.
Senior guard David Travers enjoyed an electric first-half for the Mavericks. He continually connected on mid-range jumpers and scored 18 of his team’s first 21 points. The problem was that few other La Costa Canyon players could score and that even Travers didn’t start making shots until the first quarter was nearly over.
“Travers bailed us out in the first half,” said La Costa Canyon coach David Cassaw. “For Matt (Shrigley), it was just a matter of getting used to being guarded by a guy 6-foot-8. You just can't
replicate 6-foot-8, 205 pounds.”
Travers ended with 22 points. San Diego State-bound Matt Shrigley was the team’s only other player in double figures with 13 points.
“This stings no question, but we were here because we are competitors and we are proud,” Cassaw said. “Their role players stepped up big, they played excellent. It's hard to double but with (Gordon) you have to double from somewhere.”
In the end, the best double was the one accomplished by Mitty’s boys and girls. For Gordon, though, his mind at the end also was focused on next year getting a triple, as in a third straight state title.
“I was sick for about two months (with mononucleosis),” Gordon said. “That was pretty awful but I never thought about not playing. My mom was telling me my health is more important than basketball and I said no it isn’t.
"My motivation for next year is to get this," said Gordon while holding up three fingers.
Salesian (Richmond) 70, Price (Los Angeles) 56
Taking the court for the 36th time this season, Salesian's basketball team took "pride" in leaving the hardwood with a victory against every California foe it faced this season.
For nearly two months, Salesian has barely broken a sweat in advancing to the state title game for the second consecutive year. Not only did the Pride want to finish unblemished in-state, they wanted to avenge last year's stunning state title game loss to Windward (Los Angeles).
Coach Bill Mellis' club accomplished both tasks to capture the program's second state Division IV title in four years.
"Coming back from last year's game it really meant a lot to me and my teammates," said Jabari Bird, whose resounding one-hand dunk with just under a minute capped his game-high 24-point performance. "I really relish the big stage; I try to show up in the big games. My teammates always thank me, but today I would like to thank them."
Salesian, which came into the game ranked No. 21 in the POWERADE FAB 50, finished the season with 26 consecutive on-court wins and secured no less than the state's No. 2 final rating. If No. 6 Sheldon (Sacramento) wins the Division I title on Saturday night, Salesian would be in line to earn Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year honors.
According to Mellis, Salesian (33-2) was motivated by reports stating his team wasn't nearly as battle-tested as Price (26-9), which had to rebound from a two-point loss to defending Div. III state champ Lutheran (La Verne) in the CIF Southern Section Div. IV-AA semifinals to win the loaded SoCal regional. Salesian did upgrade its schedule, losing twice in Florida at the City of Palms Tournament, but they did open this game flat.
It wasn't the lack of competition that hurt Salesian, it was more a case of The Pride not finishing its shots around the rim and facing a talented team that could score in transition just as fast as they could.
Price looked in good shape early as it took a 14-5 lead on a dunk by Khalil Johnson (team-high 17 points). Salesian chipped away at Price's lead and went ahead 25-24 with 2:08 in the second quarter on a lay-up by junior forward Jermaine Edmonds, who also hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Salesian a 31-30 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Salesian came out with more defensive intensity and opened up a eight point lead (40-32) on a dunk by Bird, but Price was far from finished. The Knights quickly went on a 5-0 run and eventually tied the game at 43, but Bird's change of pace lay-up with three seconds remaining in the period gave Salesian a 48-43 lead.
Salesian closed the game with a 22-13 advantage in the fourth quarter. By then, the tide had turned and it was Price that wasn't able to convert point-blank shots. If didn't help matters that the SoCal representatives were ice cold from the free throw line. Price actually shot better from the field (.521) than it did from the free throw line (.500). They made 14 of 28 shots from the charity stripe.
"We missed like 10 free throws in the second half and on many of them they were the front end of a 1-and-1," said Price coach Michael Lynch, who was gunning for its seventh state title. "When we missed, they would come down and score. We did overcome that some early in the season, but they were a bit more athletic than us in a few spots."
In addition to Johnson, Price got double-figure scoring from senior guard Trey Dickerson (15 points) and senior pivot Skylar Spencer (14 points).
Bird and Johnson were the only double-digit scorers for Salesian, but the team got a huge lift from Grid-Hoop All-Stater Freddie Tagaloa. He came off the bench to score six points, block two shots, grab a team-high nine rebounds and clog up the middle on defense.
"Anytime you put a 300-pounder underneath, it changes a few things," Mellis said with a smile.
Tagaloa is off to play football at Cal, but with Bird, Edmonds, Mario Dunn and Markel Leonard (both 8 points) back next season, Salesian will be in line for a high preseason ranking and will make another run at a state title.