Moreau Catholic won its first NorCal title, Drake captured a regional title for the first time in two decades and St. Joseph is headed to the state game for a fourth straight year. Three different paths all lead to Sleep Train Arena next weekend.
It wasn't Jesse Hunt, Malik Huff or Jiday Ugbaja who made the big play on Saturday night. That honor went to Drake junior Jasper Verduin, who grabbed a key offensive rebound to help preserve a late lead. The Pirates eventually beat Riordan 54-49 for the program's first NorCal title since 1994.
Drake gained control in the second quarter when Riordan was held scoreless for the first seven minutes of the frame. Despite a late run from Riordan, Drake led 27-16 at halftime. Jiday Ugbaja and Riordan had an answer in the third quarter with a 15-4 run. Jiday had 13 points during the run to make it 33 all with eight minutes left.
With back and forth action in the fourth, Drake grabbed a 49-46 lead. After desperation three missed, Verduin grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled. He split his free throws to make it a two possession game. After Jiday made his lone three pointer, Hunt made four straight free throws to put the game away.
Verduin had 23 points and Hunt added 13 points and six rebounds. The Pirates shot 44 percent while overcoming 18 turnovers. Riordan got 21 points on 7-for-24 shooting from Jiday. Chiefy Ugbaja had 21 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
Drake will face Chaminade (26-6) for the Division III title.
Mariners grab momentum, NorCal title
Basketball is a game of momentum and Moreau Catholic grabbed it at key points to secure a 61-52 win over Salesian for the program's first NorCal title. The Mariners did so with a team comprised of underclassmen. They will face Bishop Montgomery (27-6) for the Division IV state title.
Down 8-2 early, Moreau Catholic used a 12-1 second quarter run to take a 25-19 lead into halftime. It started the second half on a 12-0 run to blow the game open with a 37-19 advantage. With less than four minutes left and holding a 52-46 lead, Moreau Catholic took a missed dunk from Bernard Ward and raced to the end of the floor. Oscar Frayer finished it off on the other end with a big dunk to push the lead back to eight points.
Brandon Lawrence and Damari Milstead each had 15 points for Moreau Catholic. Frayer and Terrell Brown off the beach each finished with 11. The Mariners shot 24-for-32 from the line in outscoring Salesian by 17 from the charity stripe.
Salesian, which has played in a regional final five of the last six years, got 19 points and 10 rebounds from Jonathan Galloway , but shot just 1-for-14 from three point range. De'Angelo Hernandez added 11 points.
Pilots get another banner
The Pilots won their fourth straight NorCal Division V title with a 54-42 win over Central Catholic behind 16 points and 17 rebounds from Temidayo Yussuf. They utilized a stifling defense to hold Central Catholic to just two second quarter points. St. Joseph scored the next 18 to lead 29-13 at halftime and never let the Raiders get back within one possession. Sophomore Esteban Lovato went 8-for-8 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the win.
Lamont Banks had seven points and 10 rebounds while freshman Jade Smith had nine points, six rebounds and two assists. The Pilots were a plus 18 in rebounds, including 16 offensive boards, and were an efficient 4-for-9 from three point range.
Central Catholic senior Joe Hamilton kept the Raiders in the game with 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting, but the team finished at less than 30 percent for the game. They also had 16 turnovers. Senior Jonathan Boddie had eight points and eight rebounds while playing with a groin strain, according to Brian VanderBeek of the Modesto Bee.
St. Joseph will try for its second state title in the last four years against Renaissance Academy (24-7). It was the top seed in the Southern part of the bracket.