It wasn't easy, but the top two seeds in the Central Coast Section will meet for the fourth time this season in the Open Division finals. Serra knocked off Sacred Heart Cathedral, 54-49, and Mitty followed with a 59-51 win over Riordan at Independence High School on Wednesday.
Serra 54, Sacred Heart Cathedral 49
Serra was in control throughout and dominated most of the game; however, like the previous meeting between these teams, the Irish didn't leave without a fight. Serra led 37-22 at the half and opened the third quarter on a 8-1 run, but Sacred Heart Cathedral closed with a 10-0 run on their own after junior Deondre Otis drained a half-court shot at the buzzer.
In the fourth quarter, the Irish implemented a successful full-court press which forced turnovers and led to easy buckets. They cut the deficit to 50-49, but the Padres knocked down four free throws to seal the contest.
Sacred Heart Cathedral will face Riordan today at home for third place in the CCS Open Division. Serra will look for revenge against the Monarchs in a rematch of the WCAL championship on Saturday at Santa Clara University.
Mitty 59, Riordan 51
Like the prior matchup of the evening, the Monarchs looked as if they would run away with an easy victory when they held a 18-8 lead after the first quarter. Riordan, however, mounted a comeback and finished the first half strong as they only trailed 26-25 after the second quarter. The Crusaders converted two turnovers for five points in about 20 seconds to close the half.
The momentum carried over into second half, as Riordan captured their first lead of the game with their opening bucket. After a back-and-forth third quarter, the Crusaders led 44-39.
Mitty opened the fourth on a 10-2 run and took the lead after a three-pointer from senior Davis Messer. Riordan would never regain the lead and Mitty closed on a 5-0 run to escape with a victory.
"It's not only tough to beat a team four times, but it's tough to beat a team like Riordan," said Mitty head coach Tim Kennedy. "They've got guys who can make plays at each position, so each time we played them, they had guys who knocked down shots and gave us all sorts of fits where if you don't scramble on defense and get out to their shooters they're going to be in any game because they have guys that can knock down threes. Defensively, they're active and go for steals which can lead to transition points. It's always tough because if we don't take care of the ball and you aren't on your A-game, you're going to be in trouble."
Another highly anticipated matchup between Mitty and Serra will decide the CCS Open Division title, and Kennedy recognized the challenge ahead.
"It's going to be a battle," Kennedy added. "It's going to be a tough game where we need to be physically ready defensively to slow down Caruso and their shooters and keep them in front to make sure they're shooting contested shots every time. Offensively, can we operate? Can we get the shots we want and get out and run a little bit to get some easy looks?"
Bobby Arenas 6-foot-1 W Riordan (2014): Arenas is always a threat from three-point range which could be seen in his team-high 14 points. He had a pair of threes and also posted up a smaller defender for a finish in the paint. Arenas isn't a huge threat off the bounce, but can certainly cause havoc if left alone.
Jacqui Biggins 6-foot-0 G Serra (2013): Biggins showed himself as a scorer with 17 points on Wednesday. He knocked down four three-pointers in the first quarter alone which showed how he can make an instant impact. The senior can still work on impacting the game in more ways, but certainly demonstrated his scoring ability.
Henry Caruso 6-foot-4 W Serra (2013): The Princeton-bound senior had 24 points and consistently got to the free-throw line after physical play down low. He converted 14 of his 15 free throw attempts and also had the capability to stretch the defense with a respectable jump shot. Caruso will be key in the upcoming matchup against Mitty.
Frankie Ferrari 5-foot-11 G Riordan (2014): It was not Ferrari's best night, but he still dropped 11 points with a trio of threes. He has an exceptionally quick release that makes him effective when catching and shooting off of screens. Ferrari was 3-for-9 from three-point range and played mostly off of the ball due to the plethora of Riordan guards. He will need to transition into a point guard for the next level, which seems possible.
Aaron Gordon 6-foot-8 F Mitty (2013): The McDonald's All-American had another stat-stuffing night for the Monarchs. Gordon had 28 points, 28 rebounds, and four assists highlighted by a reverse slam. He saw double teams anytime he touched the ball, but was still able to operate against a smaller Riordan squad. "It's another day at the office for the big fella'," Kennedy said. "He spoils us with what he's able to do on the court-just being able to make plays-but it doesn't surprise me after seeing him for the last four years. He does this over and over again in practice and in games, everybody's seen it. He just finds a way to win. He has that competitiveness where he's not going to let his team lose. It's been nice to have him on the team."
Geru Mabrey 5-foot-9 PG Riordan (2013): The lighting-quick guard could break down the defense with ease and pull up for a jumper or dish an assist. He had eight points and five assists against Mitty, but can still work on his decision making at times. His ball handling created separation that resulted in positive results.
Deondre Otis 5-foot-9 PG Sacred Heart Cathedral (2014): The junior showed good poise and could run the offense. Otis had a nice jump shot and wasn't afraid to attack the basket. He finished with a team-high 14 points.
Connor Peterson 6-foot-2 G Mitty (2014): Peterson has had a huge postseason for the Monarchs and has seen more time at the point guard position due to injuries. The junior had 12 points and was 2-for-2 from behind the arc. He should continue to develop point guard skills for the Division-I level.
Jiday Ugbaja 5-foot-11 PG Riordan (2014): Ugbaja was a spark off the bench with 11 points. He made his biggest impact on the defensive end due to his speed and quick hands. Ugbaja could handle the ball as well and knocked down a three-pointer.