Friday CIF Finals: L.B. Poly girls get historic title, SaMoHi boys do not

Pleasant Grove head coach John DePonte and senior Colfax Nordquist share a happy moment shortly after their team defeated Santa Monica for the 2013 CIF Division I state championship on Friday night.

Pleasant Grove head coach John DePonte and senior Colfax Nordquist share a happy moment shortly after their team defeated Santa Monica for the 2013 CIF Division I state championship on Friday night.

Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove earns D1 boys crown by turning back the Vikings. Jackrabbits suffocate Berkeley in D1 girls final and win their school’s 33rd CIF state title in all sports. Check here as well for D3, D5 boys, girls highlights.

By Mark Tennis & Ronnie Flores

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A win for the Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove boys’ basketball team in Friday’s CIF Division I state championship at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento also was a win for the Elk Grove Unified School District.

The Eagles, who defeated Santa Monica 73-57, are located just two miles from Sheldon of Sacramento, which went 3-0 against them in head-to-head matchups and wasn’t in the Division I field due to being pulled up into the Northern California Open Division bracket.

The way that the Eagles (28-6) looked on Friday, however, a fourth matchup against Sheldon might not even be enough to stop them.

“We definitely learned what we’re capable of and what we needed to work on,” said Pleasant Grove head coach John DePonte. “I love to compete and get after it. It always comes back to Sheldon. The competitor in me would love to have played them a fourth time.”

Pleasant Grove’s senior guard duo of Matthew Hayes and Malik Thames continued their late-season heroics. Hayes connected for 19 points while Thames had 16. Senior Colfax Nordquist, who also is a tri-captain along with Hayes and Thames, had 13 points and nine rebounds. The Eagles also received a boost in the first-half from junior Thomas Fitzgerald, who scored six points and stepped up when sophomore starter Marquese Chriss was in foul trouble and didn’t seem to be at full strength.

“We had faith in our ability,” Nordquist said. “If we stuck together we knew we could be successful. The Sheldon games hardened us and got us prepared.”

Santa Monica senior center Chris Smith tried to keep his team close and ended with team highs of 20 points and eight rebounds. Vikings’ senior Jordan Mathews, the team’s top player who has signed with Cal, had an off night with nine points and was in foul trouble. He fouled out with 7:15 left and his team trailing by 10 points.

“Yes, injury and foul trouble made it tough to get anything going,” said Vikings’ head coach James Hecht. “We were never able to settle down defensively.”

Santa Monica (29-7) was attempting to win its first CIF state title in its first appearance since the 1928 team lost in the state final to Stockton (a school that no longer exists). Pleasant Grove won its first-ever state title in any sport despite having never won a league title.

Neither team shot especially well in the first half, but buoyed by a home crowd the Eagles forged a 36-27 lead. In the second half, Pleasant Grove pulled away by shooting 54.5 percent from the floor.

Long Beach Poly girls power past Berkeley

Sure, there’s now a CIF Open Division that takes many of the state’s best Division I teams out of the actual CIF Division I state playoff field, but it still counts as a CIF state championship and that’s all fine and dandy for the Long Beach Poly girls basketball team.

The Jackrabbits, who lost in the CIF Southern Section Division I-AA quarterfinals to Etiwanda and then beat that same team in the D1 regional playoffs, completed their quest to get a fifth CIF state title by topping Berkeley 46-28 on Friday night at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

“I’m most proud of the girls on this team, because for all of them it’s the first time,” said Long Beach Poly coach Carl Buggs, who becomes the second coach from Southern California to win five girls state titles (Kevin Kiernan of Santa Ana Mater Dei has six). “It’s a unique experience for them, although the coaching staff has been here six times. At Poly, getting here is taken for granted, but you can’t take it for granted.”

Juniors Jada Matthews (14 points) and Arica Carter (11 points) helped the Jackrabbits (30-5) get out to a 16-4 lead in the first quarter. Berkeley (22-12) stayed close at halftime only because both teams struggled to score in the second quarter.

Berkeley, which was led by USF-bound Rachel Howard with 11 points, was held to the fewest points in D1 girls state final.

“I’m more impressed with us giving up six points in the first period and nine in the first half,” Buggs said.

For Long Beach Poly (30-5), the win also snapped a streak of four straight losses by teams from the school in all sports in CIF state finals. This includes the girls being upset in the 2010 D1 state championship by Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills. Two of the other three losses were in CIF state football bowl games and the other in girls volleyball.

It also was Berkeley’s ninth straight loss in the CIF state finals (with four of those to the Jackrabbits and including one year when the title was vacated). Berkeley’s last win in a CIF state final came in 1997 against Crenshaw of Los Angeles.

Long Beach Poly’s 33 CIF State Titles (Combined Sports)
(according to the Cal-Hi Sports state record book)

22 – Boys & Girls Track
7 – Boys & Girls Basketball
3 – Boys Cross Country
1 – Football
Note: The school that is second on the all-time state list is still Berkeley with 16, which is not even half of the Jackrabbits’ total. Archbishop Mitty of San Jose also has 16 and could get No. 17 and move into second-place on that list with a win in Saturday’s CIF Open Division boys final against Mater Dei.

Alemany head coach Bryan Camacho poses with CIF Division III girls state title trophy.

Alemany head coach Bryan Camacho poses with CIF Division III girls state title trophy.

D3 Boys: St. Augustine (San Diego) 59, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 52 (Overtime)

The CIF San Diego Section Division III champions were in control of this game for about 31 minutes of regulation. Unfortunately for St. Augustine, there are 32 minutes in a regulation high school basketball game.

St. Augustine had a 37-30 lead entering the fourth quarter and led by four points with just over a minute remaining and Sacred Heart Cathedral even took the lead. An untimely foul and some clutch free throw shooting by St. Aug’s Trey Kell, however, delivered the Saints their first-ever CIF boys’ state title.

After a five-second call on St. Augustine with the Saints leading 44-43, SHC’s Liam O’ Reilly hit a 10-foot baseline jumper with 12 seconds remaining in the game. It looked like Sacred Heart Cathedral (22-12) then sealed the game when David Parson stole the subsequent inbounds pass as St. Augustine (29-4) was quickly trying to get up court. After Sacred Heart Cathedral made 1-of-2 free throws, Kell was fouled by O’Reilly on a 3-point attempt with 2.9 seconds remaining.

Kell nailed all three of his free throws.

“I was a little nervous,” said Kell, one of the state’s top juniors who finished with a game-high 30 points. “I had missed my first one of three. I just kept thinking I have to make the next one.”

Kell’s clutch shooting gave the Saints an emotional lift in the extra period, in which they outscored The Irish, 12-5. Kell also had a team-high 11 rebounds for St. Augustine. UC-Davis-bound Brynton Lemar was St. Aug’s other double-digit scorer with 10 points.

Herman Pratt IV, a senior guard, led Sacred Heart Cathedral with 17 points. O’Reilly had 10 points, a team-high nine rebounds and three blocks.

St. Augustine’s overall resume now has to be compared to St. John Bosco of Bellflower’s, a Division III team which was moved to the Open Division, and other traditional Division I powers that played in the CIF’s new division, to determine its position in next week’s final rankings.

“This means everything to our school,” said St. Augustine head coach Mike Haupt, who guided the team in a CIF D3 state final loss in 2005 to Santa Cruz in its other other appearance. “It’s a big deal. The love we have for our school is more than sports. We like to win, but win or lose it’s been an unbelievable feeling.”

D3 Girls: Alemany (Mission Hills) 46, Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 40

A 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter propelled the Warriors to their first CIF state title on the girls side, one year after the school’s boys won their first CIF crown in the same division.

Senior guard Leslie Lopez-Wood, who led all scorers with 16 points, connected on a 3-pointer with 2:25 left to give Alemany (32-5, ranked No. 10 in the state overall) a 41-34 lead that culminated the run.

“We tried to have great patience (when they came back to tie it),” Lopez-Wood said. “We tried to calm everyone down and play our speed, not their speed. We always feed off our crowd and we try not to let them down.”

Junior Hannah Johnson added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors, who lost to Sacred Heart Cathedral when they played in the 1998 Division III state final.

Alemany’s Bryan Camacho also made some history by winning his second CIF state title as a coach. His first came in 2009 in Division V when he was at Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank.

Sophomore center A’shanti Coleman shined for the Irish (26-7) as she hit for 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

Sophomore Ethan Underwood made a 3-point shot from NBA range at the final horn to give his team a CIF state championship.

Sophomore Ethan Underwood made a 3-point shot from NBA range at the final horn to give his team a CIF state championship.

D5 Boys: St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 47, Horizon (San Diego) 46

The Pilots were in control for most of this game, but missing too many point blank shots, and four critical free throws in the final minute cost them at the worst possible time.

That time was at the final buzzer when Horizon sophomore Ethan Underwood took the ball near mid-court on the near sideline, weaved toward the middle of the court and fired a straightway jump shot from 28 feet with his team trailing 46-44. Underwood’s shot went straight through and then he was mobbed near mid court. The St. Joseph bench was at first stunned, then was inconsolable.

“First, I was relieved that he (Marcus Harris) missed the free throws,” said Underwood, who finished with 15 points and made 3-of-4 on 3-point shots. “Then I knew that Darren (Carrington) was going to push it. Darren made the right decision. I was a little behind the NBA 3-point line. I couldn’t see it once it left my hand because the guy closing out on me was tall. I just heard my teammates’ scream.”

Underwood’s shot offset a dominant performance by Temidayo Yussef, who scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, a record in Division V. The previous division record of 18 was set by high school All-American Darnell Robinson from Emery of Emeryville in 1993.

Amazingly, St. Joseph and Horizon (21-11) shot the exact same percentage from the field (.340) on the same amount of shots (16-of-47). The difference ended up being St. Joseph’s free throw shooting (13-of-25) and it still took a near miracle shot to beat the Pilots.

Carrington, headed to Oregon on a football scholarship, led Horizon with team-highs of 17 points and 14 rebounds. Yussef, Underwood, and Carrington were the game’s only double-digit scorers.

Underwood’s 3-pointer delivered Horizon its fourth CIF state title and its first since 2006. Tough-luck St. Joseph lost in the Division V for the second consecutive season and is now 4-5 all-time in state title games. Pilots’ head coach Don Lippi added that it was the first time he remembers ever losing at the buzzer in his 34-year coaching career.

D5 Girls: Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 47, Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 33

The Lady Trailblazers captured the program’s first state title behind a great all-around performance behind Kennedy Burke. A 6-foot guard and one of the better sophomores in the state, Burke didn’t shoot particularly well from the field (4-of-17), but she did lead the game in five key statistical categories.

Burke scored 14 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, had four assists, five blocked shots and two steals to lead Sierra Canyon (26-9). Fellow sophomore Cheyanne Wallace also hit double figures, finishing with 11 points.

Veteran Pinewood coach Doc Scheppler (now 5-2 in state title games) knew his team had to shoot well from the outside to have a chance, but the Lady Panthers went only 5-for-26 from 3-point range. At one point, Scheppler was pleading to no one in particular for one of Pinewood’s 3-point shots to drop.

No player hit in double figures for Pinewood (23-9), which trailed 18-17 at halftime. Sierra Canyon broke the game open in the third period by outscoring Pinewood 18-5 to take a 36-22 lead entering the final period.

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  1. socaljunkie
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    interesting to see the effect the open division has had and the fact that the Socal teams are almost dominating the Norcal girls teams, some of the socal teams who have reached the finals in Sac were blown out by the open and 1AA socal teams. A good question for CIF may be that the top teams should be in the open bracket regardless of North and South as I think there would have been a majority of South and possibly only O’Dowd from the north in that bracket.

  2. Posted March 24, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    There is a good possibility there will continue to be blowouts for SoCal in the current format in the lower divisions.

  3. socalmom
    Posted March 26, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Just want to make a point that majority of the Alemany girls have all been training under Coach Stan Delus for years, including 3 of his starters. Not that Comacho is not a good coach, but his excessive backstabbing of coach Delus is in poor taste. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you Comacho. Coach Stan is an excellent coach and trainer and does not deserve the crap that some of you jealous coaches shell out.

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