Serra senior Cade Rees drives against the Campolindo Cougars in Tuesday's Division II NorCal championship game in Moraga, Calif. (Ethan Khakmahd / Special to S.F. Examiner)

No second half comeback in the cards as Serra boys’ basketball bows out in NorCal final

MORAGA — The Serra Padres have made a living out of second-half comebacks over the course of the season, but there would be no such saving grace in Tuesday night’s Northern California Division II Championship.

The 14-point deficit they faced at halftime against Campolindo wasn’t unfamiliar territory, and when the lead was trimmed to 12 on a Cade Rees 3-pointer to start the fourth, it looked like Serra had life, but the Cougars clamped down on both ends from there for a decisive 59-38 win.

Campolindo (26-7) outscored the Padres 20-8 in the second quarter to take a 30-16 halftime lead, and though the visitors tightened up on defense and on the glass in the third quarter, the shots wouldn’t fall.

“In the third quarter, we started getting stops, and that’s what we usually do,” head coach Chuck Rapp said. “We hit a couple threes, we get a dunk or whatever, and tonight we couldn’t.”

Serra went just 2-for-16 on 3-pointers — shooting blanks until hitting two in the final period — and shot an uncharacteristic 6-of-14 at the free throw line.

“Their pressure bothered us,” Rapp said. “It just seemed like we were out of sorts, and it can be tough playing in an unfamiliar gym. It felt like what we did to Rocklin. The roles were reversed tonight.”

That pressure held point guard Parker McDonald to just four points, and aside from Rees, who scored 16, no Padre put up more than six. Typically a lights-out free throw shooter — including a stretch of 24 consecutive makes in January — Rees went just 1-for-6 at the line. The 38 points Serra (20-10) scored was the team’s second-lowest output on the season, with the only smaller total coming all the way back on Dec. 7 in the Padres’ second game of the year.

“They were the better team today,” McDonald said matter-of-factly.

The loss marked the end of a three-year run as Serra’s starting point guard for McDonald, who had scored exactly 19 points in the ninth-seeded Padres’ prior three state tournament games. The Padres’ 10-4 mark in WCAL play this year was their best with him running the offense, and their run to a Northern California Championship Game was their farthest since winning a state title in 2016.

“It’s been an incredible journey, and I hope I left a good impression for everyone who’s going to come through,” McDonald said.

That journey was highlighted by his wild buzzer-beater in the Jungle Game against rival St. Ignatius his sophomore year. This year, he helped lead a 20-point comeback to beat the Wildcats.

There would be no such buzzer-beater or comeback Tuesday night, though. Campolindo was just too strong, led by brothers Aidan and Carter Mahaney. Just a freshman, Aidan’s 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter gave the second-seeded Cougars a 42-24 lead, and after back-to-back threes by Antonio Abeyta and Rees gave the visitors a brief 6-0 run, it was Aidan Mahaney hitting a mid-range turnaround shot to restore momentum and spark the home crowd. Carter went on to score eight of his game-high 18 in the final quarter as the lead grew as large as 25, leading both teams to empty their benches with 69 seconds left.

Aidan Mahaney scored 16, David Ahazie scored 10 and Emmanuel Callas, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, finished with nine. Callas, who missed the first month-and-a-half of the season with a knee injury, played excellent defense in the post and pulled down seven rebounds, matching both the Mahaney brothers in the category.

Overall, the hosts out-rebounded Serra just 34-32, but the 10-3 margin on the boards in the second quarter helped the Cougars out to their big halftime lead, with four of those rebounds coming from Callas. Aidan Mahaney hit a pair of huge threes in the second, a quarter in which each of the brothers scored six. Campolindo closed the half on a 10-2 run, capped off by Carter’s drive through the lane.

The Padres will have to not only replace their top two scorers in McDonald and Rees next year; they graduate four of their starters. Abeyta is the lone starter who will return, though Julius Alcantara, Damon Lewis, Muti Shuman and Ryan Wilson all saw time off the bench and will likely be key factors moving forward as Serra tries to conquer what should be a loaded WCAL next year.

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