SAN FRANCISCO — Some local basketball fans thought Riordan wasn’t worthy of a seven seed in the CCS Division III Tournament due to a 7-17 record. In fact, some argued the Crusaders didn’t belong in the playoffs at all.
They answered those critics and then some on Thursday night, outscoring visiting Capuchino 41-18 over the middle two quarters en route to a 74-40 win.
The blowout was indicative not only of Riordan’s talent, but that of the entire West Catholic Athletic League.
“It’s definitely a testament to the WCAL,” said head coach Rich Buckner. “Tonight was like playing our 15th postseason game, since we played 14 like that in our league.”
While Riordan won just one of those league games, all were against elite competition, and that has galvanized the Crusaders for the postseason.
“The defensive pressure of the league is unlike any other,” said Buckner. “It’s kind of hard for these other schools who haven’t seen it to go up against it.”
That defensive pressure was key in Riordan’s gameplan, as the Crusaders forced a whopping 27 turnovers.
Riordan opened up a 20-point lead before the end of the first half and was able to play reserves throughout the second half, which proved to be especially important as star junior James Chun battled a knee injury after colliding with the wall behind the basket late in the second quarter.
Chun, who scored 10 points in just 11 minutes, said he should be fine for Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup with second-seeded Monterey.
That quarterfinal will be a measuring stick for just how good Riordan (8-17) is. Monterey enters with a 21-3 record, but has played nowhere near the quality of competition that Riordan has seen.
Riordan was led by Moises Sandoval’s 17 points, while freshman Jelani Clark finished with 12. Clark also had the highlight of the evening, a massive block as Capuchino attempted a corner 3 in transition.
Thirteen of Riordan’s 14 players scored, and every member of the Crusader roster played at least five minutes. Alfonso Miranda and De’Sean Johnson led the reserves with six points apiece.
Riordan was able to hold Capuchino’s lead scorer on the season, Marquez Mozeke, to just eight points. Mozeke entered Thursday averaging 18.1 points per game. Brian Grealish led Capuchino (12-13) with nine points and nine rebounds in his final high school game.
The Mustangs also showed some hope for the future as sophomore Kenny Osterlund scored six points. The visitors finished their season on a feel-good note as seldom-used reserve George Errington scored four points in the final minutes, much to the delight of his teammates.
While ending the season with a lopsided loss may be a disappointment for Capuchino, the program has made massive strides in recent years. The 2012-13 team won just three games and the 2013-14 squad won just five. Though the Mustangs will be graduating their top three scorers, Osterlund and company are signs for a bright future.