The Riordan Crusaders on Tuesday night narrowly avoided a repeat of last year’s horrors, holding on for dear life in the final moments for a 52-50 win at Serra, their first road victory over the Padres since 2009.
“There’s something about this gym that just makes you play a little bit wild. You just lose a little bit of sense and awareness of clock and time and place,” head coach Joey Curtin said. “I’ve been on the other end of it, so I’m just glad we got the win and ended the streak here.”
Leading by 10 with 2:29 left, Riordan (16-2, 7-1 WCAL) let the Padres claw back in with a pair of 3-pointers from Ryan Wilson, who hit three in the fourth quarter after not scoring for the first three periods and getting poked in the eye during the second. Julius Alcantara cut the lead to two with a layup off the glass, and after a missed Bryce Monroe mid-range jumper, Serra (13-5, 5-3) had a chance for the last shot and a win on the same floor where the Crusaders had squandered a late 12-point lead a year earlier.
It took two tries to put the Padres to bed for good, as Je’Lani Clark, tying a school record playing in his 100th game, stole an inbound pass with 12.7 seconds left but lost the ball out of bounds before he could go up for a game-sealing dunk. Serra was able to bring it back down the court and get an open look for Wilson, but his shot missed and Chan Ngot pulled down the last of his eight rebounds to seal the game.
On a night where the hosts were able to impose their physicality and take the Crusaders out of their typical high-flying ways, contributions from role players like Ngot were essential.
“We came in knowing they’re not just going to give us the win,” the 6-foot-8 native of South Sudan said. “They’re going to make every shot we take hard.”
Between his eight rebounds, Sean Quanico’s corner three and tight defense and Justin Miller’s floater to close the first half tied at 25, the reserves answered the call, offsetting Serra point guard Antonio Abeyta’s game-high 22 points.
“A lot of people say that we’re just an offensive team and we always try to outscore people,” Monroe said. “Look at our numbers defensively, we can win a game with our defense and not just our offense.”
Sophomore center Mor Seck had just four points tallied seven rebounds and six blocks to spearhead that defensive effort. Clark scored 19 to lead the Crusaders, and though Monroe was held to 13, he did get the final six points of the third quarter to put his team up 41-35 in a win that carried personal significance against his older brother’s alma mater.
“He’s been telling me since my freshman year that I needed to get one here,” the younger Monroe said of Brandon, a 2016 Serra graduate now playing football at Cal Lutheran. “I’m going to call him right after this.”
Riordan remains alone in first place in the WCAL with the win, two games clear of Serra and one ahead of both Bellarmine and Mitty. The Bells and Monarchs will meet in San Jose on Friday night.
St. Ignatius 58, Sacred Heart Cathedral 54: A 26-point fourth-quarter outburst gave the St. Ignatius Wildcats revenge for an earlier Bruce-Mahoney Game defeat, coming back from down nine in the fourth quarter for a 58-54 road win over Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Sophomore GC Toledo Rivera’s 3-pointer with two minutes left gave St. Ignatius (7-11, 2-6) a 53-52 lead, and freshman point guard King-Jhsanni Wilhite put the game away with a drive to the basket and two free throws for the last of his 13 points.
After allowing 84 in a Jan. 3 loss to the Fightin’ Irish at the Cow Palace, the Wildcats managed to stay in the game the whole way and ultimately win with their defense, offsetting a 10-for-21 performance at the free throw line.
“We’ve been working our butts off in practice the last five days on defense,” head coach Rob Marcaletti said. “It starts there.”
Malcolm McCray-Hill scored 14 to lead SI to consecutive wins for the first time in a month, while Sacred Heart Cathedral (7-11, 2-6) got 12 points from Kori McCoy, 11 from sophomore Ray-John Spears and nine from Darnay McPherson.
Stuart Hall 64, Urban 60: The Stuart Hall Knights earned a season series sweep of Urban with a road win, tightening their grip on second place in the BCL West in the process.
Kyle Jasper scored 23 to lead Stuart Hall (16-6, 5-2) as the visitors opened up a double-digit lead and held on late when the Blues caught fire from 3-point range. Urban (15-7, 4-3) lost for the second time in three games, having fallen last Wednesday to first-place University. The Red Devils are alone in first place at 7-0 in league play and 17-6 overall, winning 63-46 at San Domenico (12-10, 3-4) on Tuesday night.