Perhaps the most impressive thing about University’s last-second win over Sacred Heart Prep was the Red Devils’ reaction, or lack thereof.
Will Perkins’ drive and layup with two seconds remaining gave University a 52-50 win over the Gators in the quarterfinals of the 63rd Crusader Classic, but there was no boisterous celebration from the bench when the final buzzer sounded.
“We’ve got a lot of veterans, and they played like it,” head coach Randy Bessolo said. “We’ve got a murderer’s row of games at this tournament.”
The Red Devils, who typically compete in Jefferson’s Bud Bresnahan Blue and Gold Classic but came to Riordan this year with hopes of facing tougher competition, will face San Ramon Valley (2-0) in a semifinal at 6 p.m. on Friday night.
“This is a step up for us,” said Joey Kennedy, who led all players with 24 points and 10 rebounds. “These are the most exciting games.”
Sacred Heart Prep (0-1) trailed 46-37 with five minutes left after a Kennedy putback, but clawed all the way back behind Sam Norris. The 6-foot-6 senior scored 11 points over the final five minutes, tying the game at 50 on a layup with 39.2 seconds left.
Norris and Kennedy will square off repeatedly in college. Norris is headed to Pomona-Pitzer, while Kennedy will play for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. Both are members of the Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC).
With the Gator defense keyed in on Kennedy as time wound down, Perkins drove into the lane and scored, even as a second defender closed in on him.
“I didn’t get many minutes last season,” a beaming Perkins said. “I’m just excited for the opportunity.”
The referees put two seconds back on the clock following an SHP timeout, and the clock sat at 0.3 after Trevor Tarm batted a pass out of bounds. A long inbound pass intended for Norris was knocked away, and University survived.
University led 26-18 at halftime after outscoring SHP 16-6 in the second quarter, with Kennedy providing seven points and five rebounds. A mid-range bucket by LJ Quattlebaum and a Norris layup cut that lead to 28-23 early in the third, but the Devils responded with a 7-0 run to take their largest lead of the night with 4:44 remaining in the period when Perkins was credited with two points on a goaltend.
“We have depth, and we want to make our depth a factor,” Bessolo said. “I thought it would be a factor in the fourth quarter, but to Sacred Heart Prep’s credit, they had something extra in the fourth quarter, so I’ve got to salute their toughness.”
JP Kerrigan banked in a 3-pointer from well beyond half-court as time expired in the third, cutting the lead to 41-35, but University held the Gators without a field goal for the first 3:12 of the final period to go back up by nine before the Norris-led comeback.
Kerrigan scored 10 for the Gators, who have just one returning starter in Norris. Kerrigan is the only other one of SHP’s nine players who appeared in Thursday’s game that had seen significant playing time in the 2021-22 season, in which the Gators beat Riordan to win the Crusader Classic but lost to the Crusaders in the Central Coast Section (CCS) Open Division Playoffs. SHP will face rival Menlo at 3 p.m. on Friday in the first of two consolation bracket games.
Perkins scored eight for the Red Devils, while Cole Boake finished with nine.
San Ramon Valley Wolves 67, Menlo Knights 31
The Wolves outscored the shorthanded Knights 20-4 in the second quarter and cruised to victory in Thursday’s earlier quarterfinal game.
Luke Isaak scored a game-high 23 points for San Ramon Valley (2-0), Will Ambidge scored 11 in the first three quarters and Seamus Deely finished with 10 points, six rebounds and five assists before head coach Brian Botteen yielded to his bench in the fourth quarter. Even the SRV reserves got in on the fun, with Elliot Conley throwing down a pair of dunks. Point guard Parker McClaughry scored just three points, a buzzer-beating shot to give his team a 17-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, but dished out seven assists.
Menlo (0-1), missing four players to football, got nine points from freshman Ethan Zhao and eight from senior point guard Lucas Vogel.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]