Wins against major powerhouse programs is nothing new for the University Red Devils.
The boys basketball team has scored wins over Bishop O’Dowd, Riordan, Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ignatius, and as a whole, the athletic department has never struggled to throw down against much larger schools.
Tuesday’s 73-68 win over Serra in the quarterfinals of the 26th Bambauer Classic at Marin Catholic stood out, though.
Serra was one of the few teams the Red Devils hadn’t beaten. They were winless against the Padres in Randy Bessolo’s 18 years.
“When you beat Serra in anything, you know you’ve accomplished something,” Bessolo said. “With how they fought back, they showed why a win over Serra is so rare.”
University (10-2) jumped out to a 36-17 halftime lead and held a 22-point advantage early in the third quarter, but Serra (5-3) got all the way to within three behind the tremendous efforts of junior point guard Ryan Pettis.
Pettis scored a game-high 31 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, to lead an inspired comeback effort. It started early in the third when the Padres brought their signature defensive intensity, and when shots started falling, they roared back to nearly pull off a comeback for the ages.
The University lead sat at 47-34 after three quarters, and Pettis’ 3-pointer 39 seconds into the final period cut the lead to 10. He connected again from deep to make it a 53-46 game with 4:33 left, and sophomore Mikey Ballout’s 3-pointer made it 58-53 with 2:37 left. Ballout scored 12, all in the second half.
Cole Boake helped the Devils stave off the comeback bid at the free throw line. He was 13-for-18 on foul shots for the game, including 10-for-13 in the last frame. Pettis answered a Luke Bradley steal and layup with a four-point play, making it 66-61 with 1:09 left, but Boake went 5-for-6 at the line in the final 69 seconds and Joey Kennedy made a pair of free throws as well.
“This is huge,” Kennedy said. “That’s three WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) schools down.”
Aidan Carleson scored nine of his 11 in the fourth quarter for the Padres, including an and-1 with 1:03 left that cut the lead to 68-64, but Serra came up empty on back-to-back possessions and Kennedy sank two from the line with 13.2 left. Pettis answered with a pull-up from nearly 30 feet out with 7.9 to go, but Boake iced the game at the other end.
“Randy talks about how big the games against the WCAL schools are,” Boake said. “We’re 3-0 against them this year now. All of those schools take sports super seriously and play with a ton of energy.”
In past meetings with Serra, University has typically been the one playing from behind, but the Devils landed the first blow on Tuesday. A 15-0 run spread out over more than five minutes in the second quarter put University up 33-15 after Boake and Gus Parsons connected on 3-pointers, and Kennedy hit from beyond the arc with 17.8 left in the opening half to extend the lead to 19.
“I’m a big believer that the more aggressive team wins. We played aggressive, and that’s why we got up by 19,” Bessolo said. “In the second half, they were the aggressor. Perhaps we went to the prevent defense a little too early. When the aggressor changed, the game changed.”
In that first half, the Devils largely beat the Padres at their own game, pouncing on loose balls and forcing a deluge of turnovers.
“I don’t know why, but we came out flat,” Serra head coach Chuck Rapp said.
Speeding opponents up and creating havoc has always been a part of University’s identity under Bessolo, but the Devils’ set defense was also superb in the first half. When the Padres did manage to get in the frontcourt, they were regularly forced to settle for looks at the end of the shot clock.
“We really rely on Joey at the basket,” Boake said. “Knowing that we have a rim protector like him behind us, we’re able to play really good perimeter defense.”
Boake led University with 22 points, while both Bradley and Kennedy finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Will Perkins scored 11, including a crucial steal and layup to make it 66-57 with 1:18 left.
Folsom Bulldogs 82, St. Ignatius Wildcats 72
Defense betrayed St. Ignatius in a 31-point second quarter, creating a deficit that the Wildcats could never overcome in an 82-72 loss to Folsom in a quarterfinal at the 26th Bambauer Classic.
“We had trouble getting into our offense, gave up transition buckets, and they worked through our press,” head coach Jason Greenfield said.
Folsom (11-1) outscored the Wildcats 31-13 in that fateful period and rode a balanced scoring attack to victory. The Bulldogs got 18 points from David Young, 14 from Chase Rawlins, 11 off the bench from Justin Ard and 10 apiece from Micah Johnston and Mitchell Rawlins.
Raymond Whitley scored a game-high 27 for St. Ignatius (5-3). The freshman made nine of 10 free throws as the Wildcats trimmed a 24-point deficit down to seven in the final minutes, but the Bulldogs held on by shooting 21-of-29 from the line for the afternoon.
John Squire finished with 13 points and eight rebounds for SI, while freshman Caeden Hutcherson scored 11 off the bench. Kreekor Karageuzian scored 10 and dished out seven assists, and freshman Steele Labagh scored seven in the second half to bolster the comeback attempt.
Lincoln Mustangs 67, Miramonte Matadors 57
Miramonte gave the Mustangs all they could handle, controlling the pace and working their offense with an efficient set of backcuts before Lincoln (7-1) finally put the game away.
Though the Matadors never led, they trailed just 31-24 at halftime and got within five with 3:18 to play after a Chase Miller 3-pointer and two Preston Rguem free throws. Jeremyah Aquino responded with a 3-pointer to give Lincoln a 62-54 lead, and Nikita Kartsev made three of his four free throws down the stretch to help the Mustangs close the game out.
Cortevious Taylor followed up his 28-point Lincoln debut with his first start, and the junior delivered a 23-point outing. Aquino scored 20, while twin brother Jordan Aquino added 14.
Miramonte (5-6) got 21 points from Koleton Fenton, 14 from Miller and 13 from Rguem.
The game was briefly stopped in the fourth quarter when one of the referees ejected an unruly Lincoln fan from the gym. After he was given a warning, the fan loudly urged the referee to focus on the game, with a few choice words thrown in that led to his removal.
The fan in question was not a parent of any of the Lincoln players.
Marin Catholic Wildcats 61, Arcata Tigers 56
JR Bosch hit the most impressive shot of the day, but it was Caden Maas who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:50 left to propel the host Wildcats into the semifinals of their own tournament.
Bosch’s one-handed fling from his own free throw line as time expired in the third quarter gracefully swished through the net to put Marin Catholic (4-6) up 48-44, but the Wildcats found themselves tied with Arcata (6-5) in the final two minutes after a Dayquan Dunn layup. Maas, who recorded a game-high seven assists, hit a go-ahead 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and Charles Williams followed with a three of his own to put the hosts up six.
Williams scored a game-high 25 and collected nine rebounds. Jake Ryan scored 15.
Sophomore Luke Moxon led the visiting Tigers with 19 points and 14 rebounds, Kalani Butor scored 17 and Dunn finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Urban Blues 85, Mills Vikings 57
The popular trend on high school basketball benches is to shout “BOOOOOOOOOOM!” anytime a teammate hits a 3-pointer, and the Urban Blues got to shout it 16 times in an 85-57 rout of Mills.
Patrick Holden sank four 3-pointers off the bench to lead the effort as eight different players connected from downtown for Urban (9-3). The Blues took a 46-18 lead into halftime and rolled to victory, getting big games from Jake Rodriguez (14 points), Griffin Hayward (13) and Siraj Saker (11 points, 11 rebounds). Jonathan Shim scored a game-high 26 for Mills (5-5).
Montgomery Vikings 53, Heritage Patriots 38
Montgomery (8-4) allowed just 24 points in the first three quarters and played sturdy defense throughout the morning to down the Patriots. Caden DeVries led the Vikings with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and Donovan Hawkins finished with 12 points and nine boards. Dominic Mills and Jordan Ratchford each scored seven to lead Heritage (4-9).
Central Catholic Raiders 70, St. Joseph Notre Dame Pilots 48
Freshman Jordan Magana hit six 3-pointers, including four in the second quarter, to lead Central Catholic (6-4) to a comfortable victory. Malachi Miller led the Raiders with 25 points and 13 rebounds, while Magana scored 20. Wesley Payne tallied 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Jayden Fajardo led St. Joseph Notre Dame (4-5) with 12 points, while Gabe Enyinwa and Jordan Tanaka each chipped in nine.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]