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Riordan wins section title with furious comeback

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Riordan boys basketball won its section on Saturday. (Ethan Kassel/Special to S.F. Examiner)

SAN JOSE — It looked unlikely until the final moments, but the Riordan Crusaders secured their 15th Central Coast Section title with a 61-56 win over defending champion Monterey on Saturday.

A power outage at Independence High moved the game to nearby Piedmont Hills and set the start time back by an hour. The Toreadores opened the game on an 8-0 run and led 50-40 through three quarters before a remarkable Crusader rally.

Five straight points by Anthony Oropeza trimmed the lead to 52-50, and Riordan (16-11) tied the game on Travis Benham’s lay-in off a feed from James Chun. Chun scored nine points on the night, but hit the go-ahead three with just over three minutes remaining.

Sophomore point guard Je’Lani Clark scored a game-high 23. His putback at the end of a zany sequence made it 59-54, and his pair of free throws with 17 seconds left iced the game. He shot 9-of-10 at the line.

“That was a dogfight,” said first-year head coach Joey Curtin. “At the start of the fourth quarter, we said there was no time for a break in our defense in those eight minutes.”

Sure enough, the defense didn’t break, allowing just six points and only one field goal.

Monterey (19-8) got 18 points and 10 rebounds for Mohammed Adam, 16 points from Evans Charles and 13 from Mohanid Adam. The Toreadores eliminated Riordan in the 2017 quarterfinals.

The 15 section titles give the Crusader basketball program more than any other team in the section. Bellarmine had tied Riordan at 14 last night.

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