In boys basketball regional finals played Saturday but not at Santa Clara or Long Beach State, winners were Moreau Catholic and Esperanza in D2, Mission of San Francisco and Villa Park in D3, St. Patrick-St. Vincent and Helix in D4 and St. Francis CCC of Watsonville and Rolling Hills Prep in D5.
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(Writeups for this post by Paul Muyskens, Ronnie Flores & Mark Tennis)
Division II North
Moreau Catholic (Hayward) 81, St. Francis (Mountain View) 77
Damari Milstead showed why he is a big time recruit as he all but carried his team to a state championship appearance. The four-year standout scored 43 points on the night in front of a sellout crowd at the 1,300-seat gym in Mountain View. Milstead had 19 points alone in the first half but the Lancers led 36-34 at halftime and exploded for 26 points in the third quarter to take a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter. The game still needed overtime to decide a winner after being tied at 71 after regulation. With 3:52 to go in regulation, the Mariners trailed 69-60 but they tied it late in regulation on a Milstead layup and ended the fourth quarter on a 11-2 run with six of those points coming from Milstead. Failing behind 75-71 in overtime, it was once again Milstead time for the Mariners as he would score the game’s next five points to give his team the lead. He also made four free throws late to clinch it. We actually had Moreau higher in our divisional rankings than the CIF seeding and it was yet another example of the Cal-Hi rankings being more accurate than the CIF seeding. Milstead was a freshman three years ago when Moreau lost to Bishop Montgomery of Torrance in the CIF Division IV state final.
Division II South:
Esperanza (Anaheim) 68, Pasadena 58
The Aztecs used a hot shooting hand to build a big lead and advance to their first-ever CIF state final, but not before the Bulldogs made a game of it in the final period. Esperanza, which was state-ranked for most of the
regular season and qualified for the CIFSS Open Division playoffs (where it lost its first two games), built a 49-28 lead at the end of the third period and looked like it would waltz to face Moreau Catholic of Hayward in next week’s state final. Pasadena, which was also making its first appearance in regional final and was a CIFSS Division 1A finalist, caught fire to makes things interesting. In particular, junior guard Bryce Hamilton caught fire, as he scored 19 fourth quarter points, including five 3-pointers, to get his team within 62-57, but no closer. Hamilton, one of the state’s best junior guards, finished with a game-high 34 points. One of the state’s best players regardless of class, Stanford-bound Kezie Okpala, finished with 28 points for Esperanza, which also got 17 points from Jared Obermeier. Esperanza upped its record to 29-3, while Pasadena finished 27-7.
Division III North:
Mission (San Francisco) 72, Vanden (Fairfield) 68
Yet another overflow crowd saw this game and CIF officials actually had to delay the start of the second half as they had to try to push out some of the crowd and checked tickets. Before the delay, it was a 43-29 lead for the Bears but the Vikings came back and cut that lead down to 55-51 entering the third quarter, thanks to a 15-2 run. Down eight with 3:35 remaining, the Vikings then got it down to one point with 1:13 left and would have a chance to have the lead but the Bears defense held strong and came away with the win. We saw tweets that Mission became only the fourth San Francisco public school team to reach a state boys final, but that is not correct. There’s only been one S.F. public school to play for a state title and that was Washington in 1982 in a Division I loss to Carson. In the last two attempts for an S.F. public school win a NorCal title, McAteer lost to head coach Don Lippi and Oakland Skyline in Division I in 1989 and lost to Archbishop Riordan (an S.F. public school) in Division III in 2001.
Division III South:
Villa Park 78, Colony (Ontario) 67
The Spartans will join their league rivals from Esperanza in the state finals after avenging an earlier loss to the Titans and not only that they did it as a road team. Villa Park (24-6) had lost to Colony 74-70 in the CIFSS Division 2AA final, but came through in the second half (including a 24-6 run in the third quarter) to win in a rematch. Colony (30-6) just couldn’t fight back after that. The Spartans have been a big story in Orange County all year for how they’ve played without 2016 standout Evan Battey. They were led Saturday by Julien Franklin and Caleb Banuelos with 19 and 18 points, respectively.
Division IV North:
St. Patrick-St. Vincent (Vallejo) 73, Palma (Salinas) 48
Despite playing in front of a crazy crowd on the road, the Bruins came out on fire on a 10-0 run and led by as many as 15 points in the first quarter and by as many as 18 in the first half on their way to a comfortable win. Leading 32-17 at halftime, they turned into a 58-32 lead entering the fourth quarter. They will be the underdog next week when they take on Helix of La Mesa, but no one expected them to beat a Palma team by 25 points that last year lost to Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood in the D4 state final and had the type of experienced players that made the Chieftains a favorite to win their second straight NorCal crown. St. Patrick-St. Vincent, which bounced back from an upset loss to Lick-Wilmerding in the NCS D4 semifinals but showed their promise in an earlier win over NorCal Open Division team Richmond Salesian, improved to 27-7. The Bruins also will be the only boys or girls hoop team going to Sacramento trying to win a state title that won a CIF state football title last December. They won theirs in Division 6A against Strathmore.
Division IV South:
Helix (La Mesa) 80, Immanuel (Reedley) 69
This game went back-and-forth and was only a one-point margin for the host Highlanders going into the fourth quarter. That’s when Dylan Lee heated up from 3-point line and ended up scoring 14 of his 20 points in that final period to lift Helix to the win. The Highlanders (31-5) not only advanced to their first-ever CIF state final (too bad we didn’t have state playoffs in the early 1970s when they had the legendary Bill Walton) but extended their current winning streak to 22 games. Head coach John Singer, who has won more than 600 games, also got huge performances from Jaylen Arnold (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Miles Norris (19 points, 12 rebounds). Immanuel (23-8) kept up with the Highlanders for most of the night behind the hot shooting of junior guard Nate Kendricks, who finished with a game-high 32 points.
St. Francis (Watsonville) 69, Elliot Christian (Lodi) 64
Well before the game got going, the gym in Watsonville was standing room only and there was still a long line of people trying to get in. They were rewarded with a game that was tied with under two minutes left and was just a one-point game with under 30 seconds remaining. Jason Gallo came up with a big rebound and was fouled with 10.5 seconds left as he went to the line and made both free throws to extend the Sharks lead to 67-64. The Eagles had a chance for a tying three pointer but were unable to knock it down and Gallo added two more free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to account for the five-point margin. Both teams were trying to reach their first CIF state final and it appeared they were going to collide on this night the very first time we analyzed the top teams from D5 in Northern California last month. We don’t have final totals yet, but we know that Elliot Christian senior Jimmy Beltz will not be breaking the single season state 3-point record set at 165 in 1994 by Chad Bickley of Santa Maria Valley Christian.
Division V South:
Rolling Hills Prep (San Pedro 60, Notre Dame (Riverside) 59
In a matchup of teams both making their first appearance in a SoCal regional final, it was the team with the head coach with a state championship pedigree that advanced to next week¹s state title game. That coach is Harvey Kitani, who won two D1 state titles at L.A. Fairfax (2004, 2007) before taking over the Huskies this season. Rolling Hills Prep, which moved to 28-2, will face St. Francis of Watsonville after holding off Notre Dame for the gut check road win. Notre Dame trailed by double digits with a minute and a half remaining, but hit some late 3-pointers and saw RHP miss some free throws to make things interesting. The Huskies were led to victory by junior Alex Garcia, who finished with 26 points, and CIFSS John Wooden Division V Player of the Year Chris Koon, who finished with 13 points.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: