The trophy hadn’t belonged to Mission for two seconds before Ronell Foster had taken it and lifted it high above his head.
And really, how else could the celebration of the Bears first San Francisco Section championship since 1992-93 have started? Foster had 10 points and 20 rebounds in Friday’s 63-54 win over Lincoln at Kezar Pavilion, willing Mission to a 44-24 advantage on the glass.
The senior is one of five starters who returned for a Bears team that fell 72-69 in overtime to Lowell in last year’s title game and said the feeling in the locker room after that loss never left his mind.
“I didn’t care if the ball was up on the shot clock tonight — I was going to go up and get it,” Foster said. “I was ripping it away from my own teammates if I had to. I said before the game, ‘I’ll be damned if we lose again.’”
Foster’s work on the boards helped Mission (25-4) build a double-digit lead that it carried into the fourth quarter and took on even greater importance when the Bears went cold in the final period. Mission shot just 2-of-12 from the floor in the fourth quarter and didn’t score until 1:28 remaining in the game, but Foster (five rebounds in the quarter) and Jordan Pusung (six) limited the Mustangs (24-10) to one shot and kept possessions alive for the Bears.
Foster tipped a rebound to Harry Howard for a jumper inside 2 minutes that put Mission ahead 59-51 after Lincoln had gotten to within six and Pusung got rebounds on back-to-back free-throw attempts as Mission sealed it from the line late.
“Rebounding is about desire and Ronell just took it to us,” Mustangs coach Mike Gragnani said. “He got everything he wanted to get tonight, and that was a lot.”
Mission looked like it would win going away early, as the team went on a 9-0 run to open the game and used a 10-0 spurt to go ahead 21-7 late in the first quarter. Junior guard Demaree Hampton had all of his game-high 20 points in the first three quarters, and the Bears led by as many as 18.
But Deend Parker (15 points) and Devin Koch (14) were not about to let the big crowd at Kezar watch them get blown out, and used tight defense to slowly get
Lincoln back into the game. Lincoln had the ball twice with a chance to cut the lead to four, but both times Grant Thomas came up with steals for the Bears.
“This feeling is what we’ve wanted since we came together as a team three years ago,” Hampton said. “We talked about last year’s game every day and we wouldn’t settle for second again.”