SAN JOSE — With Tuesday’s 75-71 loss at Mitty, the Riordan Crusaders’ hopes for their first outright WCAL title since 1990 are officially over, and they’ll need some major help to claim a share of the league crown for the first time since 2007.
“We were hoping to come out of here tonight feeling really good in first place,” head coach Joey Curtin said. “Not having that is shocking, and it’s not what we wanted, but we’ll regroup.”
Riordan (15-7, 8-4 WCAL) now sits in a tie for third place with Bellarmine with two games remaining, one game back of Serra and two behind the Monarchs, who surged after trailing by 11 in the third quarter to beat the Crusaders at home for a 20th consecutive time. Riordan hasn’t won at Mitty since 2002, and the current streak includes 17 league matchups and three postseason meetings.
“We were fine on offense,” Curtin said. “We just didn’t make enough stops. We had some mental breakdowns down the stretch that allowed them to get some clean looks.”
Mitty shot 13-of-29 from 3-point range and hit nine threes in the second half. The hosts used a 13-2 run to briefly pull ahead with 1:23 left in the third quarter on a Marcus Greene and-1. Riordan would score the final four points of the period to take a 58-55 lead on Dominic Wilson’s basket at the buzzer, but seven straight points would put Mitty (16-6, 10-2) in front midway through the fourth. Justice Turner scored four of his 10 points in the opening minutes of the fourth to put Riordan up 63-58, but back-to-back threes by Greene put the Monarchs ahead. Devan Sapp split a pair of free throws to put Mitty up two, and though Clark would score at the line to tie things back up, the Monarchs went back in front for good on a Joseph Vaughn 3-pointer with just under four minutes to go.
The Crusaders would miss their next four shots, and Mitty would take a five-point lead on an acrobatic move to the hoop by Sapp. The junior, who scored 25 when the teams first met, shot just 1-for-8 on 3-pointers but still managed to score 12. Two Bryce Monroe free throws with 1:54 left would cut the lead to three, but the last of Greene’s five 3-pointers put Mitty up six with just under a minute left.
Riordan had one last push, with a basket by Wilson and a Monroe bucket in the lane to cut the lead to two with 15.8 seconds left. The Crusaders had two fouls to give, and after nearly forcing the turnover before each of those fouls, the Monarchs finally did turn it over on an errant pass with 6.5 left as Turner knocked the ball out off of Vaughn. Vaughn, a Yale football commit, atoned for his mistake on the ensuing inbound, swiping it out of mid-air before a jump ball was finally called with 2.5 seconds left. He would make two free throws with less than a second to go to seal the game.
Greene shot 5-for-8 from beyond the arc en route to scoring his game-high 25 points. While Sapp was held to 12 points and Michael Mitchell was limited to 11, Vaughn scored 14 and Owen Browne added 11 off the bench for a Monarch team that has now won six straight since their January 16 loss at Riordan.
“We know they were capable of making those shots,” Curtin said. “Our focus was on their main three guys (Greene, Mitchell and Sapp), but their other guys weren’t supposed to be that open.”
Early on, it was the Je’Lani Clark show as the Crusaders held an early 9-3 lead and went into the half with a 41-36 advantage. Clark scored 17 of his 24 in the first half, connecting on all four of his 3-pointers, and he had nine of his 10 rebounds before the break. Perhaps his best move of the night came late in the second quarter when he faked his shot four times, then finally hit an off-balance three from the top of the arc over Mitty’s Mason Ryan.
“When he gets going, he’s pretty hard to stop,” Curtin said of Clark.
Riordan started the third with six points from Turner, who was scoreless in the first half. His and-1 and 3-pointer made it 47-36, forcing Mitty head coach Tim Kennedy to call timeout. Sapp hit his lone three of the night after the break, but a fastbreak led to a Clark dunk to give the visitors a 49-39 lead.
Greene and Monroe then traded threes, but Riordan would slow offensively over the next three minutes as Greene led the game-changing 13-2 run. A 3-pointer by Browne cut it to 52-49, and even Clark’s drive to the hoop wouldn’t stop momentum, as Greene answered with a 3-pointer and another and-1 to put the Monarchs ahead for the first time since the early minutes of the second quarter.
“The postgame message is to regroup and win our last two home games,” Curtin concluded. “It’s really important for our seeding and to get into a groove going into the playoffs.”
Technically, the WCAL race isn’t yet over. If Serra beats Mitty at home Friday night, the top four teams will all be within range, though a Monarch victory would seal the race. Seeding in the CCS Open Division is still up for grabs, regardless of what happens Friday night.
Serra 67, Bellarmine 65 (OT): Cade Rees came up huge for the Padres at the end of regulation and overtime, scoring on a layup inside the final 15 seconds of the fourth quarter to tie the game at 60 and hitting the winning basket on a baseline drive as the final seconds of overtime ran off the clock.
Serra (17-5, 9-3) trailed by as much as nine in the third quarter but roared back behind Rees, who scored eight in the fourth quarter and all seven of his team’s points in overtime. The Padres also got 21 points from Parker McDonald to snap a seven-game skid to Bellarmine that included two trips to San Jose and two neutral-site playoff meetings. Serra won without two starters as Dominic Bartlewski was out with a concussion and Cooper Fitz missed his second straight game. Bellarmine (17-5, 8-4) got 23 points from Kiran Kruse, who missed a shot in the lane to win it at the end of regulation but hit a game-tying 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds of OT. Constantijn Cole added 12 for the Bells while Quinn Denker and Kyle Lewis each finished with nine.