In his two years at Riordan, Christian Wise has endeared himself to the Crusader fanbase with rim-rocking dunks.
He didn’t throw down any jams on Tuesday night, but he was indisputably the star of the show as he led the Crusaders to a 57-46 win over Campolindo in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division I Tournament, posting a double-double in the process.
“Everything that you want a senior to do, he did it. He was borderline unplayable last year,” head coach Joey Curtin said of Wise, who transferred from Heritage before his junior season. “He hit the weight room hard, he hit his training hard and, most of all, he bought in to get better, learn the game and understand what we’re trying to do here.”
“As soon as I came to Riordan, I knew that nothing was gonna be handed to me,” Wise said. “You get in the weight room and the film room, dudes recognize that and they respect you as a leader.”
Wise had 24 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and 10 rebounds to lead Riordan (22-6) past the Cougars, finishing the game on a 16-4 run in the latest chapter of what’s become an enthralling rivalry.
Tuesday marked the sixth meeting between Riordan and Campolindo (23-8) in the past four seasons. While Riordan is a San Francisco private school and Campolindo is a Moraga public school, the two sides have built up plenty of familiarity.
They’ve squared off three times at the Gridley Invitational, including a three-point Cougars win in December, and battled in last year’s state tournament, where Campolindo eliminated the Crusaders. The teams were also on a path to meet in the Northern California Division I Championship Game in 2020 before the pandemic brought the season to a halt.
“It’s a bit poetic that they’re here and we beat them,” Curtin said. “This is kind of the last vestige of that Mahaney-Bennett brothers era. Coach (Steven) Dyer’s done a tremendous job, and they’ve had a tremendous run in recent years.”
The Cougars had won four head-to-head meetings in a row before Tuesday night, but fourth-seeded Riordan overwhelmed the visitors in the paint during the fourth quarter to pull away.
“If you just try your simple post entries, they’re so good at helping and doubling that it won’t work,” Curtin said. “You have to disguise it a bit. We learned that from the last time we played them. Last time, it was a little bit aimless. This time, it was more deliberate and more structured.”
In that prior contest, King-Njhsanni Wilhite scored 12 points for the Crusaders. At the end of December, he left for Red Rock Academy, a prep program in Las Vegas.
“We just got better as a team,” Curtin said when comparing the two games against Campolindo this season. “We’re harder to guard because we have five guys who can touch it at any time, and all five guys buy in on defense.”
That buy-in was evident during the fourth quarter. The 13th-seeded Cougars entered the final period with a 39-38 lead after scoring 18 points in the third quarter and held a 42-41 advantage after a Logan Robeson 3-pointer with 6:31 left, but scored just once more from the field. Wise scored off an Andrew Hilman assist to put the hosts back on top with 5:36 left, then stopped Robeson on a drive at the other end.
Robeson, a four-year varsity player who’s overcome a malady of injuries throughout his career, scored 17 points to lead the Cougars.
"I experienced it last year with Aidan Mahaney,” Curtin said when asked about Robeson. “After that game, when they beat us, I said, 'Man, I’m just so glad I don’t have to coach against him anymore,’ and Logan’s kind of in that vein.”
Hilman’s steal and dunk gave Riordan a 45-42 lead, and Wise drew a charge for Shane O’Reilly’s fourth foul with 4:41 left. O’Reilly, Campolindo’s top defender, scored 10 of his 13 points in the third quarter but fouled out with 2:27 remaining when Jasir Rencher scored to put Riordan up seven.
“He was elite defensively,” Dyer said of O’Reilly. “In our NCS (North Coast Section) Championship Game, he held a guy who’s averaging 21 points a game to seven.”
With O’Reilly fouled out, Wise put the game away with a pair of free throws and a transition layup when Rencher broke Campolindo’s press. Robeson and Clay Naffziger, the Cougars’ third senior captain, were subbed out to a standing ovation from the visiting fans with 33.5 seconds left. Naffziger finished with 12 points.
Riordan had just one player in double figures to Campolindo’s three, but all five starters scored at least seven points. Achilles Woodson finished with nine points and five assists, Rencher scored eight, Nathan Tshamala finished with seven and Hilman, despite struggling to finish at the rim for much of the night, had seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.
“His motor doesn’t stop,” Curtin said. “He missed some point-blank shots that he usually makes, but that’s the kind of kid he is. He doesn’t stop.”
Wise and Hilman combined for Riordan’s first 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“Andrew’s a freshman, so he’s very malleable and very coachable,” Wise said. “We live together (in the dorms), so we have great chemistry.”
Baskets by Wise and Tshamala, Jonathan Kuminga’s cousin, had the Crusaders up 29-21 early in the third before Campolindo’s biggest push. O’Reilly made three free throws with 2:43 left in the quarter to cut the lead to 33-31, then drained a three over Hilman after a Hilman putback of a missed free throw had given Riordan a 38-33 lead. Robeson’s 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left in the third quarter as the shot clock expired gave the Cougars their first lead since it was 4-3.
Even after graduating a pair of four-year starters in Matt Radell and Mahaney, who now stars at Saint Mary’s, as well as a three-year varsity player in Cade Bennett, the Cougars finished the season as co-champions of the Diablo Athletic League (DAL) and as NCS Division II Champions.
“This is the year where we proved a lot of people wrong,” O’Reilly said. “Losing all those seniors last year, a lot of people were coming at our heads all season long.”
Riordan advances to host fifth-seeded Inderkum-Sacramento (28-3) on Thursday. The Tigers beat No. 12 Dublin on Tuesday night, 73-58.
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