After scoring just four points in the first quarter of its Bay Counties League West semifinal game against Marin Academy, Stuart Hall needed a spark.
Junior guard Tim Connolly gave the Knights just what they needed, with a season-high 19 points and six assists, leading Stuart Hall to a 46-36 win on Wednesday at Kezar Pavilion.
“We all came out of the half with a sense of urgency that we needed to perform better,” Connolly said. “We came out kinda soft in the beginning, but it was pretty obvious [we] would have to come out strong in the second half if we wanted to win.”
Connolly provided the offensive spark, but it was the Stuart Hall defense that put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Marin Academy, the second seed, led 34-31 at the end of the third quarter but missed its first 15 shots from the floor in the fourth and scored its only basket of the quarter with just 20 seconds remaining.
“I really don’t have the answer [for why we struggled],” Marin Academy coach Michael Coffino said. “Defensively we’ve been playing well, but that hasn’t been enough. We thought we were going to win the league this year, but that was proven to be an erroneous assumption.”
In the fourth quarter, it was Connolly that provided the spark again, scoring the first two points of what would be a 15-0 Stuart Hall run on a driving layup just 10 seconds into the stanza.
“Tim is a total gamer and his play speaks for itself,” Stuart Hall coach Charles Johnson said. “He hit some huge shots and had some great drives. All around a great performance from him.”
Stuart Hall’s only other double-digit scorer was senior forward Rahsaan Johnson, who finished with 13 points, but the Knights got a significant lift defensively from 6-foot-9 senior center Carter Chickering, who had a team-high 13 rebounds and four blocks.
Chickering held Marin Academy’s best player, forward Dashon Harris, to 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting from the floor.
With the win, Stuart Hall advances to its second consecutive BCL West championship game, but in an entirely different fashion than last season, when it was the favorite and the top seed.
Now, the Knights come in as the third seed, and will likely face league-favorite University, who faced off against Lick-Wilmerding in the other semifinal late Wednesday.
The Red Devils got the best of the Knights in their two regular-season meetings by a combined 37 points.
“We’ll be here Saturday, and I promise you, we’ll play our asses off,” Johnson said. “That much I’ll guarantee.”
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