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Cameroonian freshman leads Riordan to rivalry win, league championship

Riordan guard Andrew Hilman (2) drives to the basket during the third quarter of a West Catholic Athletic League basketball game against Serra in San Mateo on Jan. 31, 2023. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

The Riordan Crusaders wrapped up a share of the West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL) on Tuesday night, with a Cameroonian freshman making decades of San Franciscans proud.

The 66-54 road victory over the Sacred Heart Cathedral Fightin’ Irish marked the 15th time the Crusaders have won at least a part of the league crown, and one of the most important contributors to the win wasn’t even living in the United States a year ago.

6-foot-3 freshman guard Andrew Hilman dazzled again with 11 points and nine rebounds as Riordan (19-5, 12-2 WCAL) won an 11th straight meeting with the Fightin’ Irish, ensuring a split of the league crowd with Mitty (20-4, 12-2).

Trailing by four points late in the third, Hilman drew a crucial charge, then fed Jasir Rencher for a dunk at the other end. His assist on a Rencher 3-pointer gave the visiting Crusaders a 55-47 lead in the fourth quarter, and his offensive rebound off a missed free throw in the final minute set up a Zachary Jones layup that effectively sealed the game.

“He’s been getting more comfortable out there as the season has gone along in terms of his ball-handling and the speed of the game,” Curtin said.

Achilles Woodson scored a team-high 18 for the Crusaders, sinking a 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left in the third quarter that gave Riordan the lead for good. The visitors also scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, with Kaia Berridge hitting a 3-pointer and Christian Wise scoring on a pair of shots in the lane.

Sacred Heart Cathedral (13-11, 7-7) trailed just 52-47 after Jerry Mixon Jr. drove for a layup and fed Michael Manfreda underneath for a basket, but Hilman fed Rencher at the other end to restore momentum for Riordan.

Mixon led all players with 19 points and six assists. He fed Zemaury Erfe for a 3-pointer to give the Irish a 35-32 lead in the third quarter, and Erfe knocked down another off a Fed Pernell feed to make it 38-34. Mixon answered a Rencher bucket with two more points to make it 40-36 before Hilman’s momentum-changing charge.

Rencher scored 15 for the Crusaders, while Wise finished with nine points and eight rebounds.

“I’m very proud of this group for finishing atop the standings, especially with only four returners and five new starters,” Curtin said. “The WCAL is a grind, and co-champs or not, it’s very hard to do.”

A third showdown with Mitty, who created a tie for first place by beating the Crusaders last Tuesday, could await in the Central Coast Section (CCS) Open Division Playoffs.

“A third matchup would be nice, especially with the fans, but we’re focused on Friday night and whoever is in our pool,” Curtin said.

The eight Open Division teams are split into two pools of four teams each. The 1, 4, 5 and 8 seeds are in Pool A, while the 2, 3, 6 and 7 seeds are in Pool B. The higher seed hosts each pool play game, with the winners of each pool advancing to the championship on Feb. 24 at Santa Clara University’s Leavey Center.

The Irish, who got 12 points from Miller and eight from Manfreda, also expect to be in the Open Division.