Host Rams, who were No. 1 in the nation when they played in their showcase event last year, fell in their Saturday matchup to nationally ranked Centennial of Las Vegas 68-65. That was bad for them, but good for the attention that Monday’s matchup between Centennial and current state/national No. 1 Clovis West of Fresno will get when it is played. The other big winner of the day was Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, which topped Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa 58-48 in matchup of State Top 20 squads.
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It was simply a matter of one 3-pointer going in and another one missing in the final 20 seconds of Saturday’s marquee matchup at the St. Mary’s MLK Showcase that was played at Stockton St. Mary’s Morelli Gym.
After the host Rams tied the score at 65-65 with 36 seconds left on a layup by junior guard Ariel Johnson, the visitors from Vegas broke it when University of Arizona-bound Samantha Thomas drained a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining. Centennial players knew that St. Mary’s had to go for a 3-pointer as well and defended the perimeter, which was one reason why Johnson’s 3-point shot at the final buzzer clanged off the rim.
St. Mary’s, which lost one week ago on Saturday as well on its home court to Carondelet of Concord, dropped to 12-4 with the 68-65 loss, but this loss probably won’t cost the Rams any spots in the next State Top 20 since Centennial is so highly regarded. The Rams (No. 7 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20) will play again in the MLK Showcase on Monday against state No. 11 Alemany of Mission Hills.
Thomas had shown her ability to hit clutch threes earlier in the game when she connected for one at the third quarter horn that tied the score at 53-53. That basket had broken an 9-0 run by the Rams that had turned a 50-44 deficit into the 53-50 lead.
Both teams were able to go on runs during the game as the Bulldogs used their impressive speed and quickness for fast-break baskets. St. Mary’s countered with a few 3-pointers of its own, but doesn’t shoot or make as many as previous teams. The Rams instead had an edge with 6-foot-2 Aquira DeCosta battling for rebounds on the interior plus there were the acrobatic drives to the cup from both Johnson and fellow junior Neenah Young.
Johnson led all scorers with 22 points while the Rams had three others in double figures with sophomore forward Jada Moss (16 points), DeCosta (14) and Young (12). Centennial was balanced as well with four in double figures — Justice Ethridge (13 points), Thomas (12), Eboni Walker (11), Jayden Eggleston (10) — and Mel Isbell finishing with nine.
One of the most interested in the crowd in the second half was Clovis West of Fresno head coach Craig Campbell, who will be taking his team (ranked No. 1 in the state and nation) to Monday’s MLK Showcase schedule at St. Mary’s to face the same team from Nevada. Also playing on Monday in Stockton will be state No. 2 Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, which is facing state No. 10 Mission Hills of San Marcos.
In other games Saturday at the St. Mary’s MLK Showcase:
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 58,
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 48
After the Cardinals scored the first basket of the third quarter to take a 30-19 lead, they went cold for the rest of the quarter and into the fourth and wilted in the second half against a scrappy Dragons’ team that is trying to bounce back in the state rankings after a loss from last Saturday to Salesian of Richmond.
O’Dowd went on a 19-3 run for the rest of the third quarter and after scoring the first four points of the final quarter had built a 43-33 lead. The closest Cardinal Newman came after that was 50-42 and 55-48.
With the win, head coach Malik McCord’s squad improved to 12-3 and should rise from its No. 15 state ranking. Cardinal Newman, last year’s CIF Division IV state champs and ranked No. 8 in the state coming into the day, fell to 12-3.
There was a scary moment in the third quarter for the Dragons when All-State candidate Myah Pace hit the floor hard on a scramble for a loose ball and had a Cardinal Newman player fall on top of her. She stayed motionless on the court for a few moments, but eventually rose up and after being evaluated in the lockerroom returned to play in the fourth quarter. Pace led O’Dowd in scoring with 14 points.
Others from the Dragons who played well, included junior forward Zakiya Mahoney (12 points), freshman guard Daylee Dunn (10 points) and sophomore guard Jada Holland and sophomore guard Lexi Love (nine points). Hailey Vice-Neat topped Cardinal Newman with 13 points, while 6-foot-5 Lauren Walker had 12 points.
Mission Hills (San Marcos) 47,
Salesian (Richmond) 31
In yet another matchup of leading state-ranked teams, the girls from San Diego County made their debut at the MLK Showcase a successful one. Their depth plus the usual outstanding play of senior Khayla Rooks was too much for the Pride. Mission Hills (No. 10 in the state) improved to 15-1. Salesian (No. 14 in the state) dropped to 9-4.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (SF) 84,
Fairmont Prep (Anaheim) 70
Two weeks ago, Fairmont Prep was sitting at No. 9 in the state and No. 1 in Orange County. The team may not be known to many in Northern California, but it is a solid win for the Irish. Ranked at No. 9 in the state this week, Sacred Heart Cathedral got an even more monster game than usual from standout IImar’I Thomas, who had 39 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, according to Cal-Hi Sports correspondent Harold Abend.