In 1988, Danny Manning and the Kansas Jayhawks went on an improbable March Madness run, winning the NCAA basketball tournament as a No. 6 seed and earning the enduring nickname, “Danny and the Miracles.”
Archbishop Riordan, competing in the NorCal Division III high school playoffs, is looking to repeat that kind of hot streak. The Crusaders have plenty of similarities to the Kansas squad, right down to the tournament seeding, late-season momentum and memorable team moniker.
“We’re starting to call ourselves ‘Eddie and the Miracles,’” said Riordan coach Rich Buckner, referring to the Crusaders’ star guard, Eddie Stansberry. “He’s been carrying us offensively all season.”
Stansberry, a 6-foot-2 junior, has been a revelation this season, averaging 18.7 points per game in his first year playing with the Crusaders after transferring from Serra, Riordan’s rival in the rugged West Catholic Athletic League. He came up big in his sixth-seeded team’s 55-53 overtime win against Albany on Wednesday, hitting several clutch baskets down the stretch en route to a game-high 24 points.
But Buckner said Stansberry will need some offensive help from his teammates if the Crusaders (18-10) hope to defeat third-seeded Sierra-Manteca, which earned a bye in the first round of the NorCal Division III playoffs and sports a sterling 29-2 record. The Timberwolves, who won the San-Joaquin Division III Section title, have ceded a stingy 46.7 points per game defensively this season.
“They’re comfortable playing multiple defenses,” said Buckner, who’s had a crash course over the last two days prepping for the relatively unfamiliar Sierra-Manteca. “They’ll go from man-to-man to some funky zones pretty seamlessly. And they’ve got a lot of size inside.”
Of particular concern for the Crusaders is 6-foot-8 senior center Joshua Patton, a Sacramento State-commit who has been dominant on both sides of the ball this season. Patton is aided by versatile 6-foot-4 senior swingman Hunter Johnson and two speedy guards in junior Daniel Wyatt and senior Devin Nunez.
Buckner said the Crusaders will need to defend the 3-point line, limit offensive rebounds and cut down on their turnovers.
“Sierra is going to be a huge challenge, no question,” said Buckner. “You don’t win 29 games by chance. We’ll certainly have to play our best to get a win on Saturday.”
The two teams will square off at 6 p.m. on the Timberwolves’ home floor in Manteca.
Riordan is one of three San Francisco schools competing in the NorCal Division III playoffs. Sacred Heart Cathedral, also of the WCAL, will face East Bay power Campolindo on Saturday, and Mission, The City’s sole public school still playing, will square off against Foothill-Palo Cedro. Sacred Heart, the seventh seed in the playoffs, defeated Vanden 75-71 on Wednesday, and Mission, the fifth-seed, beat Encinal-Alameda 81-76. Stuart Hall, University and Urban will all square off in Division V playoff action on Saturday as well.
On the girls’ side, sixth-seeded St. Ignatius will travel to Salesian Prep for its first-round contest in the NorCal Open Division playoffs tonight. Sacred Heart Cathedral, the fourth-seed, will host St. Mary’s-Berkeley in its Open Division first-round game, also tonight. University, the fifth-seed in Division V, will play on Saturday night against Durham.