As the coach of a gritty, defensive-minded boys' basketball team, Riordan's Rich Buckner expressed a level of disbelief that his Crusaders could surrender 96 points in a game — the tally that his team's next opponent, Campolindo (Moraga) put up in its quarterfinal victory in the CIF Northern California Division III playoffs.
“I don't think they're going to put up 96 points against us,” Buckner said. “If they do, I'm going to run over to the scoreboard and unplug it.”
The matchup between third-seeded Riordan and second-seeded Campolindo in tonight's NorCal semifinals features an oceanic chasm in style of play. While the Cougars were approaching triple digits in their win against Vanden High School on Saturday, the Crusaders were grinding out a 43-41 win against Sacramento's Christian Brothers High School.
“If the game gets into the 70s or 80s, we're going to have trouble keeping up with them,” said Buckner, whose team travels to Moraga for tonight's 7 p.m. game. “We need to control the tempo to have a shot at winning.”
Buckner said rebounding, limiting turnovers and playing solid defense is the key to maintaining a level of play that befits his team. Campolindo features a deep roster of talented players, including 6-foot-6 junior center Chris Hansen, whom Buckner likened to a high school version of Kevin Love.
“He's a load out there, but he's pretty agile and he's got a bunch of nice post moves,” Buckner said. “He'll definitely present a challenge.”
Offensively, Buckner is looking for contributions from someone outside of the duo of Chiefy and Jiday Ugbaja, senior cousins who have consistently shouldered the scoring load for the Crusaders this season.
“I'd love to see it, but I don't think we can expect 30 points each from Jiday or Chiefy against Campolindo's defense,” Buckner said. “We're going to need someone else to step up and score.”
Buckner said sophomore guard Eric Galindo or senior forward Zach Masoli could fill that role for the Crusaders.
The winner of tonight's game advances to the Division III NorCal final against either Drake or Miramonte, which pulled off respective upsets against Sacred Heart Cathedral and Burlingame to advance.