Through six games, Riordan is tied for first place in the West Catholic Athletic League after snapping a losing streak that started before half of the Crusaders’ players were even born.
With Tuesday night’s 62-51 win at Mitty, the Crusaders defeated the Monarchs on the road for the first time since 2002, ending a string of 20 consecutive losses at Fien Gymnasium in San Jose by allowing just one point over the final 4:39.
“One of the things we talked about that we wanted to do this year was knock off Mitty at Mitty,” said senior guard Bryce Monroe after scoring a game-high 24 points.
Leading 52-50 after a Lee Hubbard III steal and Chan Ngot putback, Monroe missed a 3-pointer but rushed to the baseline to save the ball from going out of bounds, setting up Je’Lani Clark to slash to the hoop and score to put Riordan up by two possessions for the first time all game.
“Nobody can mess with me going to the rack,” Clark said after he scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half, making six of his seven second-half shots from inside the 3-point line. “I got out of character (in the first half). It was me doing selfish stuff and not playing as a team player.”
The Nevada commit shot just 1-of-8 in the first half as the Monarchs took a 32-25 lead into the break and got the first three points of the third quarter for their largest lead of the night before Riordan (14-2, 5-1 WCAL) roared back. Even after Marcus Greene gave Mitty a 40-36 lead by answering a Monroe 3-pointer with one of his own, the Crusaders stood tall, with Hubbard rebounding a missed Clark dunk and setting Monroe up for another three. Pepperdine commit Mikey Mitchell scored on a finger roll to give the Monarchs a 45-43 lead entering the fourth, but Mitty (13-3, 4-2) would hit just two shots from the field in the final eight minutes.
Those shots come on a Mason Ryan 3-pointer and Greene baseline floater, but Clark tied the game at 50 on an and-1 with 3:38 left and the Monarchs would miss the front end of three straight 1-and-1s over the final minutes while Riordan went 9-for-11 at the line in the fourth quarter to help seal the game.
“You saw our defense in the second half. We really locked down,” head coach Joey Curtin said after his players sprayed him with water in the locker room to celebrate. “I’ve told the guys, that travels everywhere, and in this league, it’s a necessity to play that way on the defensive end.”
The Crusaders also dominated the glass, out rebounding Mitty 47-30. Seven-foot sophomore Mor Seck had 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass, to go with his seven points.
Stuart Hall transfer Nigel Burris was held to three points for the Monarchs and left the game with 3:38 remaining after a hard fall while trying to box out after Clark’s game-tying free throw.
The win leaves Riordan tied atop the WCAL standings with Serra (13-3, 5-1). The Crusaders will visit the Padres in San Mateo on Tuesday to try to avenge their lone league loss and win at Morton Family Gymnasium for the first time since 2009.
Mission’s 48-game streak on the line: The Mission Bears have been the class of the Academic Athletic Association for years, having last lost a league game on Feb. 23, 2016, but their 48-game league winning streak will be on the line Thursday afternoon when the Lincoln Mustangs pay a visit.
The last of the unbeaten teams in the Lang Division, the upper tier of the AAA, Lincoln has been defeated just three times all year and looks to be gearing up for a run that could rival the one Mission has been on over the past few years. The Bears have won five straight City championships and became the first San Francisco public school to win a state championship in 2017. Last year, the Bears had one of their closest calls against the Mustangs, overcoming an 11-point deficit to win 79-74 at home as part of a season that culminated in a Northern California championship game appearance.
So far, this year hasn’t been a breeze for Mission (10-9, 6-0 AAA), but the Bears have reaped the benefits of a grueling non league schedule that included losses to Riordan and Menlo-Atherton to win their first six league games, surviving close calls in their last two. They beat Washington 65-62 after leading by 20 through one quarter, and they overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to beat Lowell thanks to late-game heroics by Marcelo Solis, who finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.
It’s likely to be another high-scoring, fast-paced game when Lincoln (16-3, 6-0) pays a visit on Wednesday. The Mustangs are led by the three Aquino brothers, with sophomore Jordan and freshmen Jeremyah and Justin playing at breakneck speed while wowing fans with deep 3-pointers. They’re not just carrying the team by themselves, though. Juniors Joseph Fox, Darrin Lum and Kevin Xu have all been stellar defenders while Lum and Xu can light it up from outside, and senior forward James Walsh has been a load in the post since transitioning from Lincoln’s state championship football team. In an age of lightning-quick guard play and deep shooting, Walsh and Mission junior Julian Neal will throw it back to the days of strong play in the middle.
University wins at Chase Center: The University Red Devils won the first high school game ever played at the Chase Center, defeating Lick-Wilmerding 52-49 on Friday afternoon. The Devils led by as much as 19 in the third quarter before Allen Wilson scored 10 of his 18 down the stretch to give the Tigers some late life. Charlie Kennedy scored a game-high 23 for University, while the Lick-Wilmerding girls rolled to a 64-26 win in the nightcap.