The marquee game of the first Catholic School Winter Classic on Saturday night at Cal State East Bay in Hayward pitted two defending state champions and the Cal-Hi Sports’ No. 2 and No. 3 ranked teams, and attracted coaches from all Pac-12 schools plus many other Division I college programs.
The game featured lots of slams and jams by Richmond Salesian’s 6-foot-6 Cal-bound Jabari Bird and Archbishop Mitty’s 6-foot-8 Aaron Gordon, but in the end the depth of Salesian was too much for Mitty in a 72-51 Pride win that had Cal coach Mike Montgomery smiling at the play of his prized recruit.
Down 9-2 early, and with Bird being harassed by Gordon’s defense on the perimeter, Salesian coach Bill Mellis called time out to talk to his star. The result was state No. 3 and defending Division IV state champion Salesian (7-1) went on a 12-0 Bird-fueled run to take a 14-9 lead after one quarter.
“I was playing too tentative at the beginning and when I came back after the timeout I just tried to play it like a regular game,” said Bird, who finished with a game-high 19 points and had nine rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Despite playing poorly in the first half, Mitty (3-2) only trailed 31-23 after two quarters.
The third quarter was where the Pride really took it to the Monarchs, opening with a 12-0 run that pretty much sealed the deal.
It was 56-34 after three quarters but after Bird made an acrobatic scoop shot early in the fourth quarter it ballooned to 66-34 before Mitty rallied in garbage time to make it look respectable.
“We’ve been looking forward to this game since the summer, but I never thought we could win this easily. I only dreamt of it,” Bird remarked.
Gordon, who has Arizona and Washington among his list of college finalists, had a double-double 18 points and 10 rebounds but no other Monarchs player tallied in double-figure scoring.
“Every coach is looking for the perfect game and we never get it, but this was close,” Mellis said. “We were tentative in the beginning and too worried about what they were doing. These are teenagers and we needed to settle them down.”
Three other Pride players were in double-figure scoring. Montana-bound Mario Dunn had 15 points, Jermaine Edmonds Jr. added 13 points and seven rebounds, and Sean O’Neal chipped in with 10 points.
For Salesian, another upside in addition to the big win over Mitty is the upcoming eligibility of 6-foot-9 Brentwood Liberty junior transfer Jonathan Galloway.
Galloway won’t be eligible for the upcoming Torrey Pines Holiday Classic but according to Mellis he will be eligible for the Pride’s game on ESPNU on Jan. 5 versus Gonzaga of Washington (D.C.).
In other games at the Catholic School Winter Classic:
Serra (San Mateo) 63, St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 46
The 6 p.m. game saw Serra (6-1) use a 9-0 run to break an early 2-2 tie and take control in an easy win over the defending Division V Northern California champions.
Jacqui Biggins led Serra (6-1) with 21 points, while Princeton-bound Henry Caruso added 18 points.
Temidayo Yussef led St. Joseph Notre Dame with 15 points.
In other games…..Modesto Central Catholic took a running clock 57-19 victory over Oakland St. Elizabeth…..San Francisco Riordan got 20 points from A.J. Padranes in a 79-63 win over host Moreau Catholic Hayward…..St. Mary’s (Stockton) was a 65-52 winner over St. Francis of Mountain View…..St. Patrick-St. Vincent defeated Atherton Sacred Heart Prep 73-54.
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