When the state-ranked duo of No. 20 El Cerrito and No. 14 Campolindo of Moraga met on Saturday evening there really wasn’t a lot riding on the game except the competition. El Cerrito came away with a 55-50 victory and is likely to move up in next week’s state Top 20 rankings.
With El Cerrito pretty much assured of the No. 1 seed in the CIF North Coast Section Division II playoffs and Campolindo having all but sewed up the No. 2 spot in Division III behind top-ranked Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, the only thing really on the line was going to be the satisfaction of the win and where each team would land in the state rankings next week.
Even so, neither team left anything on the court, but down the stretch it was host El Cerrito (23-3) overcoming a 39-36 deficit at the end of three quarters to post a 55-50 victory. The win avenges a 67-63 loss to Campolindo at the Modesto Christian Tournament in late December.
“It was definitely about pride for us. They had already beaten us once,” El Cerrito head coach Michael Booker remarked. “Not only that but it was a litmus test for us to see where we’re at. It shows we’re growing as a team.”
El Cerrito jumped out to a 15-6 first quarter lead but Campolindo fought back more than once in a game that had 12 lead changes and five ties, the last at 44-44 with 5 minutes left on a basket by the Gauchos Tyrell Alcorn. The El Cerrito senior led all scorers with 23 points.
Campolindo (21-3) had its last lead at 44-42 on a basket by 6-foot-7, 245-pound center Chris Hansen, and after falling behind 51-46 closed to 51-50 with 16.4 seconds remaining but El Cerrito scored the last four points, all on free-throws by Alcorn.
Hansen was hard to stop inside and finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Scott Chen added 10 points.
While no other El Cerrito player hit double figures as it had eight players score to only five for the Cougars. Gauchos junior Sayeed Pridgett played through early foul trouble and finished with nine points and five assists.
Campolindo played without junior forward Austin Clarke for what head coach Matt Watson said was a coach’s decision.
“Our post defense was lacking,” Booker said. “We had a plan to deal with Hansen but he’s a load. Still, it’s a good win for us going into the playoffs”
El Cerrito will now host St. Joseph Notre Dame-Alameda on Tuesday in the Tri-County – Rock League playoffs. Campolindo has two games remaining next week in the Diablo Foothill League where there are no playoffs.