San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Josh Johnson and Trey Lance and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters were in attendance on Thursday night as Oakland and San Francisco basketball champions faced off in a playoff game.
The Oakland Athletic League (OAL) champion, Oakland Tech Bulldogs, hosted the San Francisco Section champion Lincoln Mustangs in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division III State Basketball Tournament.
But the night belonged to Ahmaree Muhammad.
The junior guard scored a game-high 37 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, to lead second-seeded Oakland Tech (21-11) back from an 11-point deficit as the Bulldogs won 64-59 in a battle of Oakland and San Francisco’s top public schools.
“Ahmaree’s a strong player, and he thrives when big guys try to guard him,” head coach Karega Hart said. “We play for the city. We play for Oakland. We take pride in that.”
Oakland Tech’s gym was a madhouse all night, with a packed house to see the Lady Bulldogs defeat Pinewood 63-37 in a CIF Division I matchup to begin the doubleheader. Johnson’s daughter, 6-foot-3 freshman center Jhai Johnson, had seven points, nine rebounds, three assists and a block.
Lance, who kept a low profile with his hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head, had also attended Tuesday night’s doubleheader to support his fellow quarterback’s daughter.
“He had seen the videos (of Jhai) on my social media,” Josh Johnson said. “Now he’s a Bulldog.”
Peters, a McClymonds alum, is Johnson’s cousin.
“That’s family,” Josh said. “We’re all here supporting the fam.”
Rapper Mistah F.A.B. was also in the crowd to see Oakland Tech (27-5) pull away from the Panthers in the second half. Pinewood (17-12) trailed just 28-25 at halftime, but the Bulldogs outscored them 35-7 until a pair of Panther baskets to close the game.
Jada Williams led the second-seeded Lady Bulldogs with 13 points, scoring 11 in the fourth quarter. Taliyah Logwood had 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Jala Williams scored all of her 10 in the first quarter. Erin Sellers chipped in nine, while Nia Hunter scored all six of her points in the second quarter.
Burlingame transfer Ava Uhrich led Pinewood with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Jolyn Ding had 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The “Doghouse” will likely be rocking again on Saturday with a NorCal semifinal doubleheader. Oakland Tech’s girls will host No. 3 San Ramon Valley (28-4), while the boys will host seventh-seeded Justin-Siena (28-5).
For much of the night, it looked like only the girls would get the chance to play on Saturday. Sixth-seeded Lincoln (27-4) jumped out to an early 17-6 lead, led 33-29 at halftime and took a 43-32 lead on Quentin Kennedy’s drive to the basket with 3:56 left in the third quarter. The third-seeded Bulldogs trimmed the lead to five, but Cortevious Taylor, who had a team-high 17 points and 13 rebounds, hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in the period to send the Mustangs to the fourth quarter with a 54-46 lead.
But Lincoln mustered just five points in the fourth quarter, and never scored from the field after Justin Aquino’s basket with 7:25 left.
“We played the paint better,” Muhammad said. “We forced them to shoot outside jumpers, and they weren’t falling. They’re good shooters, but they ain’t the best.”
Oakland Tech won the fourth quarter 18-5. Muhammad’s 3-pointer on an inbound play cut the lead to 56-51, and he scored six consecutive points in 41 seconds to give the Bulldogs the lead for the first time all night. His drive with 5:30 to go cut the lead to three, and he went coast-to-coast for a layup 26 seconds later, then grabbed a steal at half-court, spun through the lane and sent the crowd into hysterics as the Bulldogs took their first lead of the entire night with 4:49 left.
“We just persevered and kept fighting until we got the outcome we wanted,” head coach Karega Hart said. “It was wonderful to see my guys play with poise. The moment wasn’t too big. It was a microcosm of how we played all year and why we played such a tough schedule.”
Muhammad’s reverse layup with 3:47 left put Oakland Tech up 60-56. Lincoln trailed 60-59 after Kennedy made two free throws with 1:54 left, but missed a corner three with 27 seconds remaining. Ardarius Gates made two free throws with 20 on the clock, and after a deep 3-point attempt to tie missed, Muhammad scored one last transition layup as the crowd erupted in chants of “OT! OT!”
“Every game at home, we have a crowd in the playoffs,” Gates said. “Playing against the city, it just meant a bigger crowd.”
Gates had also knocked down two late free throws to close out the OAL Championship victory over Oakland.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure,” Gates said. “Since I was a kid, I’ve been shooting free throws like that, and we practice that every day.”
Gates and Devin Haynes each finished with 10 points. Haynes scored seven in the third and finished a rebound shy of a double-double, while Omar Staples Jr., a Stanford football commit, had six points and 13 rebounds.
Kennedy and Justin Aquino each scored 14 points for Lincoln, while Jeremyah Aquino scored 10. Justin scored eight in the third quarter; Jeremyah scored seven in the first.
The twin brothers had been a mainstay in Lincoln’s starting lineup since they were freshmen. Older brother Jordan had played alongside the duo before graduating in 2022.
Thursday night marked the final game in a Mustang uniform not only for the two brothers, but for Kennedy and six other seniors as well. The Class of 2023 will leave as one of the most decorated in Lincoln history, even with an entire season canceled in the wake of the pandemic.
In the 2019-20 season, Lincoln went 29-4, winning the Academic Athletic Association (AAA) regular season title. The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) shut down athletic events a few days before the rest of the state, costing the Mustangs a chance to play for the Northern California Division IV Championship. SFUSD also canceled the entire 2020-21 season, even when most of the state pieced together some form of a shortened season in the spring.
Last season, the Mustangs went 22-4, sweeping the AAA regular season and playoff titles before taking eventual state Division III champion Pleasant Valley to overtime on the road in Chico. A 40-38 loss to Lowell on Feb. 13 that split the AAA regular season title was Lincoln’s only league loss in four years, and the Mustangs made up for it with a resounding 54-27 victory over the Cardinals at Kezar Pavilion less than two weeks later for the city championship.
“This one game didn’t define us,” Lincoln head coach Carl Jacobs said. “Even though this is not the result we wanted, my heart was filled. All you can ask as a coach is for your guys to leave it all on the floor, and they did that.”
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]