SF Preps Basketball: Bryce Monroe scores 27, but Riordan falls to Bellarmine in overtime

SAN JOSE — Bryce Monroe put up his second-highest point total of the year in Wednesday night’s Central Coast Section Open Division Semifinal, scoring 27, but his Riordan Crusaders struggled to find secondary scoring and fell in overtime to the Bellarmine Bells, 68-61.

It was a promising matchup on paper for the second-seeded Crusaders, who swept Bellarmine in the regular season, and it looked even better when the Bells took the floor without starting center Constantijn Cole, sophomore Ryan Kiachian — who would have filled his spot — and senior guard Cole Troedson, all of whom were out injured.

Still, third-seeded Bellarmine got a career-high 21 points from Ian Elam, who scored eight in the fourth quarter and another six in overtime, plus a huge effort off the bench from sophomore Josh Wolf-Bloom, who had spent the entire season on the JV team and was seeing the first varsity action of his life, to advance to a fourth straight Open Division Championship Game.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Riordan head coach Joey Curtin said. “When you have secondary players from Bellarmine making shots, you need to have your shooters set the tone, and we didn’t do that. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be to beat a team three times.”

Je’Lani Clark scored 11 points and Dominic Wilson added 10 off the bench, but Riordan (18-8) shot just 4-of-20 on 3-pointers as the Bells were able to slow the pace to a crawl, working the clock and then finally getting open looks right before the shot clock expired.

By getting six points from Wolf-Bloom and baskets from Ridley Ruth, Josiah Ajiake and Nick Grassman, the Bells were able to create openings for their top weapons. Kiran Kruse scored 15, Quinn Denker finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Elam had all sorts of openings down the stretch as Bellarmine (20-6) came back from down four in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth game that saw 10 lead changes and seven ties.

The only chance Riordan really had to pull away came late in the third as the Crusaders went on an 8-0 run to take a 40-36 lead, with a Justice Turner 3-pointer, a Clark and-1 and a Monroe coast-to-coast. The Bells wouldn’t go away, though, as Ruth got his lone points of the night on a three-point play to cut it to one. The Crusaders would lead by just two at the end of the quarter.

Dominic Wilson would score on a cut to the hoop, receiving one of Monroe’s four assists on the night, to give the Crusaders a 46-42 lead early in the fourth, and Riordan would get the ball back off a Bells miss, but a huge steal by Wolf-Bloom got Elam a layup in transition. The Crusaders would miss their next three shots as Bellarmine tied the game on a pair of Kruse free throws, then went in front by four on baskets by Elam and Denker.

Riordan responded with a mid-range pull-up by Chimae Ugbaja and transition lay-in by Clark to tie it at 50. Denker and Wilson traded baskets before the Bells would turn it over, and Turner would get fouled on a third-chance attempt. He’d make both free throws, but Denker fouled Elam on an open seam up the middle to answer at the other end.

Monroe would get his lone basket of the fourth quarter — a pull-up jumper with 25 seconds left — to give the Crusaders a 56-54 lead, but Bellarmine would tie it on the exact same play from the prior possession, with Kruse making the pass to Elam this time to tie it with five seconds left. A one-handed runner by Monroe at the buzzer would fall short, and the game went to overtime.

In the extra period, the Bells got the first six points on a pair of Wolf-Bloom free throws and two baskets by Elam, and Riordan would never cut it to less than four from there. Monroe would hit two free throws for the Crusaders’ first OT points with 1:07 left, but the last of Elam’s 21 points, off a pass from Ruth with just over 30 seconds left, would all but end the game.

Monroe’s most dominant quarter was the third, in which he scored 10 points. He shot 5-of-9 in the first half but just 6-of-16 in the second half and OT.

Ethan Kassel
Published by
Ethan Kassel

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