Here are writeups and breakdowns of the two Division I boys regional championship games played on Saturday night at Long Beach State and the University of Santa Clara. Read on as well for scores and briefs from the other CIF regional finals in other divisions.
For breakdowns and more regarding the two CIF Open Division regional finals played Saturday, CLICK HERE.
(NorCal D1 writeup by Ethan Kassel; the rest by Mark Tennis)
(Contributing: Ronnie Flores & Harold Abend)
Division I (NorCal)
Las Lomas (Walnut Creek) 44,
Palo Alto 41
It turns out Las Lomas isn’t just a high-flying offense.
With Palo Alto slowing the game down, the Knights, typically accustomed to running teams out of the gym, locked in on defense and held off a late charge to advance to a state championship game for the first time in school history.
Nate Robinson of Las Lomas led all scorers with 18 points, but made his most significant impact on defense as the Knights held Palo Alto to just 26.7% shooting, forced 16 turnovers and with just one 3-pointer allowed.
That three came from Jared Wulbrun as part of an 8-0 run by the Vikings to get the Las Lomas lead down to 40-37 in the fourth quarter. Wulbrun scored all seven of his points in a row, sinking a pair of free throws with 3:26 left, driving to the hoop with 2:40 left and sinking a three off a Spencer Rojahn assist moments later to cut the deficit to four. The connection between Rojahn and Wulbrun, lifelong friends, had been present all year for Palo Alto. They each scored seven on the day, though all of Rojahn’s came from the line.
To even get within four, and to ultimately cut the lead to two in the final moments, was a remarkable achievement for a Palo Alto team that could never gain traction on offense for the first 28 minutes despite completely dictating the pace, holding a team that had scored 84 points against Mitty on Tuesday to just 17 in the first half.
Las Lomas (31-3) did get things figured out on offense to some extent in the second half. The Knights took a one-point lead on a Devin Payne three early in the third quarter and went on top for good on a pair of Jason Holman free throws with 2:19 left in a third quarter where every Las Lomas basket was huge. Palo Alto converted just one field goal in the period.
The big momentum shift came in the final two minutes of the period, with four points by Payne and a Robert Prince layup just before the buzzer to take a 30-25 lead into the fourth.
Of course, there was no quit in the group that brought legendary coach Peter Diepenbrock back to Palo Alto, with Wulbrun leading the charge off the bench and full-court pressure giving Las Lomas fits.
It would turn out that the plays that sealed the game for the Knights would be two offensive rebounds on a day where Palo Alto (26-4) largely controlled the glass. The Vikings held a 40-29 advantage on the glass, with Will Schlemmer pulling down a game-high 12, but it was two Las Lomas reserves who picked up the rebounds that helped clinch the victory. Blake Thorpe was the one in the right spot when Robinson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:18 left, and when Robinson’s elbow jumper missed at the end of the shot clock on the following possession, J.T. Estes grabbed the miss. Robinson was then fouled, and he would make both to extend the lead to 42-37. Palo Alto did get within two on a late drive to the hoop by Max Dorward, but a free throw by Robert Prince with 2.8 seconds left provided the final score. A desperation heave by Palo Alto was nowhere near the hoop and appeared to have gone after the buzzer, setting off a massive celebration for Las Lomas and the white-clad student section.
For head coach Brian Dietschy, it’s a celebration that was 30 years in the making. He played on the last Las Lomas team in 1988 that fell short in a NorCal championship loss to Jefferson of Daly City.
“I already got 24 text messages since the game ended,” said Dietschy less than half an hour after the final buzzer. “I can’t say enough about the support, the good lucks, the go-get-ems, all that.”
There was a lot of support for eighth-seeded Palo Alto as well, with huge roars after each of Dorward’s team-high 10 points, but when the final buzzer sounded, those shouts were louder on the home side.
Division I (SoCal)
Chino Hills 67,
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 51
In a championship game like this one, even the 35-0 Chino Hills team of 2016 that was No. 1 in the nation may not have ever turned around a game quite like the Huskies of 2018 did in this matchup.
A 49-40 lead by the Braves at the start of the fourth quarter was not only surpassed but overwhelmed by Chino Hills. It ended up a 27-2 advantage and a 16-point lead at the final horn.
To come through like that usually requires a team to bury a high percentage of 3-point shots. The Huskies shot 7-for-9 on 3-pointers in the second half alone. Conversely, Bosco made 11-of-41 3-pointers in the game, but only 3-of-18 in the second half.
With the win, Chino Hills (25-11) advanced to its third CIF state final in four seasons. That 35-0 season, of course, featured Lonzo, LiAngelo and La’Melo Ball. The Huskies won the CIF Open Division state title and lost in the D1 state final the previous season to San Ramon Valley of Danville. They will play Las Lomas of Walnut Creek on Friday at the Golden 1 Center in this year’s D1 championship.
Another Ball, this time Andre, who is a cousin of the more famous brothers, came up with a monster performance to lead the Huskies. He hit 5-of-7 on 3-pointers and rained down 32 points. Ofure Ojadughele nailed three 3-pointers, grabbed seven rebounds and scored 20 points. Dominating center Onyeka Okongwu added 15 rebounds, five blocks and 12 points.
“I knew my team needed me at the time,” Ball said. “I’m here focused on winning with these guys. Right now, I’m just thinking about one more game.”
Christian James had a strong outing with 13 points and six rebounds for the Braves (25-8) in helping them build their lead. Jonathan Salazar was held to just one field goal but got to the line and had eight points, 15 rebounds and four assists. The team came into the game as the top seed and was No. 9 in the State Top 20.
“Give Bosco credit for unbelievable defense on Big O,” said Chino Hills head coach Dennis Latimore, who is in his first season. “We needed other people to step up.”
In the next State Top 20 rankings, the Huskies should move up from No. 14 and could sneak up inside the top 10 if they win the CIF D1 title. They did lose twice to Etiwanda in the Baseline League, however, and will have to stay behind the Eagles in the final rankings.
Crossroads (Santa Monica) 54, Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 50
Alameda 76, St. Mary’s (Stockton) 66 (OT)
The sons of Scottie Pippen and Kenyon Martin at Sierra Canyon won’t be the only NBA sons who will be playing in next weekend’s CIF state finals in Sacramento. Shareef O’Neal, the son of legendary Shaquille O’Neal (and a part owner of the Sacramento Kings), and his teammates at Crossroads will be there too. The Roadrunners (24-9) didn’t face league rival Brentwood for a fourth time in the regional final after Brentwood was beaten by Birmingham in the semifinals. They had lost to Brentwood in a nail-biter for the CIF Southern Section D2AA title, but had two earlier wins over the Eagles. Crossroads is making its third CIF state final appearance. The school won its only title in D4 in 1997 when it was led by guard Baron Davis. Alameda (28-5) is making its first CIF state final appearance. The Hornets gave up the lead for the first time in the game in overtime vs. St. Mary’s but scored on two straight three-point plays to take command.
Notre Dame (Riverside) 69, Bishop Amat (La Puente) 56
Pleasant Valley (Chico) 62, Central Catholic (Modesto) 53
Anthony Holland and Dondre Bausley both hit 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter to lift Notre Dame (33-3) as the Lancers were attempting to come back from a five-point deficit. We were glad to see that Pleasant Valley (31-2) wasn’t lifted to a higher division as a traditional D3 school from the CIF Northern Section that has never been to a CIF state final before. The Vikings have played well the last two weeks.
View Park (Los Angeles) 57, Christian (El Cajon) 43
Stuart Hall (San Francisco) 68, St. Mary’s (Berkeley) 62
Both of these teams have come back from losing in section playoffs. View Park (26-8) lost to University of Los Angeles (placed in a higher CIF division) in the L.A. CIty D1 semifinals. Stuart Hall (23-11) actually avenged an a 62-50 loss to St. Mary’s in the North Coast Section D4 quarterfinals.
Santa Clarita Christian (Canyon Country) 81, Van Nuys 73
Argonaut (Jackson) 72, Colfax 57
The Cardinals (24-9) advanced to their first state final and haven’t lost since a 76-64 defeat to Windward of Los Angeles (which is in a higher CIF division) back in early January. The Mustangs (29-5) had to beat Colfax a second time to reach their first state title game. That was the same team they beat to win a Sac-Joaquin Section title.