It wasn’t your typical No. 3 vs. No. 6 section quarterfinal when St. Mary’s of Stockton lost to Cosumnes Oaks of Elk Grove 76-74 in Friday’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs.
Cosumnes Oaks was only a No. 6 because of 15 forfeit losses on its schedule. On the court, the Wolfpack entered Friday’s game with a 26-game win streak and had risen to No. 19 in the latest State Top 20.
St. Mary’s easily could have been a No. 2 instead of No. 3 in a loaded bracket (state-ranked Folsom is top seed and was up to No. 16 in this week’s State Top 20) and was trying to avenge one of just two on-court losses on its season slate.
“We just had to go through a No. 3 like St. Mary’s on the road and next we’ll have to play No. 2 (Del Oro) and maybe eventually No. 1 (Folsom),” said Cosumnes Oaks head coach Patrick Roth. “Anybody left could win it. It’s just who perseveres.”
In simple terms, the game became whether a St. Mary’s team with a great player (senior UC Santa Barbara-bound Gabe Vincent) could outlast a Cosumnes Oaks squad with two elite athletes (grid-hoop standouts L.J. Reed and Alex Van Dyke).
Both teams blew big leads in the second half (12 and 13 points) and with 46.5 seconds left it was all tied up at 72-72 following two free throws by St. Mary’s Alex Smith.
Cosumnes Oaks could have whittled the clock down for a last-second shot, but with 15 seconds left senior Matt Muldavin had an open look and buried a 3-pointer.
With 6.6 seconds left, Vincent was fouled and could have tried to make one, then miss. Instead, he made both free throws for a 75-74 score, which was followed by a quick foul on Muldavin. He made only 1-of-2 free throws, however, and after missing the second St. Mary’s got the ball and had it in Vincent’s hands. He dribbled into the front-court and took a possible game-winning 3-point shot. It bounced off the rim. Cosumnes Oaks players and fans then rushed the court.
“We already knew their game plan at the end was that he would shoot it,” said Van Dyke, who has signed a football letter of intent with UCLA. “We had to find a way to slow him down, and not let the other guys do as much.”
Vincent was spectacular in what turned out to be his last game for the Rams. He had 12 points in the first quarter, had 20 by halftime and was scoring on drives to the basket or on long 3-pointers. Vincent finished with 40 points.
Reed and Van Dyke were quiet in the first half, although Reed seemed to grabbing every rebound. In the second half, they combined for 31 points and finished with 21 and 17, respectively. They led a surge that took the Wolfpack from a 43-31 deficit to a 68-56 lead.