The game everyone in the Bay Area was awaiting for since defending Northern California Division IV champion Moreau (Hayward) moved up to Division III and the domain of defending NorCal Open champion Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland), took place before a packed house on Saturday at the 3,500 seat McKeon Pavilion at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga.
In what very well may be a prelude to another face-off between the two Alameda County Catholic school powers in the upcoming NorCal Open Division playoffs, state No. 1 O’Dowd (24-4) didn’t play its best but between Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year leading candidate Ivan Rabb and Boise State-bound Paris Austin, the Dragons had more than enough firepower to post a 70-61 victory.
Rabb finished with 25 points, 19 rebounds and six blocks. Austin added 20 points (three three-pointers) with five rebounds and four assists.
With O’Dowd leading 51-44 after three quarters and Moreau looking like it could mount a final run, the 6-foot-11, 220-pound Rabb had three monstrous dunks during a span in which he scored eight of the Dragons’ first 12 points in the fourth quarter. At that point, it was 63-50 midway through the final period and the starch was pretty much out of Moreau.
O’Dowd stretched it to 69-53 before the subs entered and a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Cal-committed Moreau forward Oscar Frayer (20 points) provided the final margin.
“I hope the three-pointer by Oscar cutting it under double-digits didn’t push us into the Open Division,” mused Moreau head coach Frank Knight.
The reality is Moreau is one of the best three or four teams in Northern California and meets the criteria for going to the Open Division, and that’s certainly going to be the case.
“This game was bittersweet,” continued Knight. “The bitter part is we lost in the championship to O’Dowd. The sweet part is we have a group of kids that can beat anyone in Northern California but them. If they put us in the Open Division we’ll probably see them again.”
Despite another North Coast Section title O’Dowd head coach Lou Ritchie was not handing out a lot of praise to his team.
“You’ve got to give credit to Frank and his staff but we didn’t play well, too many turnovers,” Ritchie said. “We had 17 turnovers against a team that didn’t press us. The positive is we didn’t play well and won by nine. Let’s get the bad game out of the way and get busy for four more games.”
O’Dowd’s other big man, 6-foot-9 forward Isaiah Thomas, had 11 points and six rebounds but he was the victim of several turnovers.
Besides Frayer, Moreau (23-6) got 16 points from sophomore Damari Milstead.
Both teams now await the decision of the commissioners but while Moreau will almost certainly be chosen for the Open Division, its seed is still a question. The same can’t be said for O’Dowd as the Dragons are ticketed for the NorCal top seed.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend