SAN MATEO — With 7-1 center Jack Wilson out with the flu, the Serra Padres knew they would have to get creative in order to beat St. Francis.
— Saint Francis HS (@sfhsathletics) February 9, 2017
It ended up taking more than creativity after squandering a 23-point lead. In a thrilling finish, Masie Mohammadi came through in crunch time to lead Serra to a 62-61 win.
Early on, Wilson’s absence appeared to be more of a blessing than a curse for the hosts, who led 21-6 after a quarter thanks to a much smaller and quicker offense.
“When we knew Jack was going to be out, we decided to play fast and furious,” Serra head coach Sean Dugoni said.
Henry James closed out the first quarter with seven of his team-high 18 points.
Serra’s dominance continued into the second quarter, when they stretched the lead, 32-9. Lancer star point guard Logan Johnson, who missed the first quarter due to a coaching decision, sparked an 11-1 St. Francis run, capped off by Jake Mihanovic’s 3-pointer to close out the first half.
Mihanovic was a nightmare for the Padres this season. He scored 32 in the teams’ first meeting, a 66-59 St. Francis victory.
Serra kept the Lancers at bay through most of the third quarter by coming up with a basket at every critical juncture. None of those were bigger than defensive specialist Jason Morabe’s 3-pointer as the shot clock ran out with just over two minutes left in the period.
St. Francis scored the final six points of the quarter to get within single digits for the first time since late in the opening quarter. Anthony Landphere, a 6-5 sophomore, helped fuel the comeback, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds.
Serra seemed to have the game in hand when Parker McDonald’s dunk with five and a half minutes to go stretched the lead to 54-43. McDonald, a sophomore, scored 17 points — including 12 in the second half.
Though the slam electrified the home crowd, it also galvanized the visitors, who unleashed a 13-2 run to tie the game at 56. Mihanovic scored seven of his game-high 25 points in the stretch, including two free throws to tie the score with 2:40 remaining. The senior made 14 of his 16 free throws on the night.
Mohammadi finished with just six points, but he put the Padres back in front with his two free throws, and after a defensive stand, found Isaac Loera underneath for his only points of the game to make it 60-56.
St. Francis (15-6, 6-5) had one final chance after Illinois football commit Bennett Williams drew an offensive foul with 8.4 seconds remaining, but Mohammadi stripped Johnson before he could get off an attempt to win the game. Johnson, whose older brother Tyler plays for the Miami Heat, finished with 15 points.
“We turned up the intensity after getting behind early, but in this league, you can’t spot anybody a 23-point lead,” said head coach Mike Motil, whose Lancers have now lost three games in a row by a total of six points.