SAN MATEO — While the West Catholic Athletic League is a grind that can break teams down. Teams from the league often excel in the playoffs against foes not used to their defensive pressure, which is exactly how the Serra Padres jumped out to a 22-4 lead over Rocklin after one quarter in Saturday night’s CIF Northern California Division II semifinal.
After finishing 9-5 in league play, in fourth place, the Padres seem to have saved their best for last. With a convincing 70-46 win over the Thunder, they are headed to the regional finals, with a berth in the state championship on the line.
“We knew if we pressured them, we’d win this game,” junior guard Antonio Abeyta said. “They’re not ready for WCAL defense.”
That defense helped ninth-seeded Serra (20-9) jump out to an early 19-2 lead behind 10 points from Parker McDonald, and with the Padres’ secondary scorers all clicking, it made for a comfortable win in the final game this year at Morton Family Gymnasium.
“It’s good playing teams that aren’t familiar with you,” McDonald said. “They didn’t seem too ready for the defensive pressure in the first half.”
McDonald scored 19 points, but Cade Rees, who usually sits alongside him atop the scoresheet, was held to eight. Instead, it was Abeyta, Dominic Bartlewski and Cooper Fitz that all had big games.
“Dom was huge. The baseline drive and put-backs were at times when we had gotten lulled and really needed those baskets,” head coach Chuck Rapp said. “When you get 14 from Dom, 10 from Cooper and nine from Abeyta, it’s going to be a good day at the office.”
A put-back by Bartlewski just before halftime gave the hosts a 39-23 lead heading into the break, and when Rocklin (27-6) closed to 10 at the start of the fourth quarter on two of Evan Terry’s 19 points, it was back-to-back baskets by Bartlewski on a baseline drive and elbow jumper that put the Padres back in control.
“We started moving the ball and teammates played unselfishly,” Bartlewski said after registering a new career high in points. “I got open thanks to them.”
Considering that the 13th-seeded Thunder had won at both Clovis North and Chico-Pleasant Valley, it was surprising to see them in such a deep hole from the outset.
“We wanted to come out with our shock-and-awe defense and just slam them right from the start,” Rapp said. “It’s something they’re not used to.”
When the visitors did find their land legs, they were able to turn what looked like a landslide into a competitive affair for a while. They held Serra to just eight points in the third, and all of those points came from the secondary sources that helped decide the game, with Abeyta hitting a pair of threes and Fitz cashing in on a put-back to make it 47-35 in the dying moments of the period.
The four straight points from Bartlewski that started the fourth turned the Padres into a runaway train, starting a 17-2 run that put the game away for good, with both McDonald and Abeyta converting and-1s in the process.
It’s a victory that has the Padres one win away from playing for a state title for the second time in four years, having won the Division II championship in 2016. They’ll travel to Moraga on Tuesday for a battle with second-seeded Campolindo. The Cougars won in overtime against Sacramento on Thursday, and on Saturday night, they pulled out a 53-51 win over Grant.
Reedley-Immanuel 88, Mission 86 (2 OT): For the second time in three nights, the Bears played in a high-scoring thriller, but this time, the magic ran out in the CIF Division IV Quarterfinals. Ben Knight scored a career-high 42 points in his final high school game, but Jordan Rodriguez scored 11 of his 28 points in overtime for the host Eagles and sophomore center Winston Williams scored 22, despite putting up just seven points across the first three quarters.
Williams gave his team the lead with 11 seconds left, but the ninth-seeded Bears were quick to answer and force OT on a layup from Matt Cohn. Rodriguez had eight of the 12 points in the second overtime for Immanuel (25-8), including three free throws down the stretch. Free throws were a problem for the Bears, who went 13-for-27 at the line, with Knight making 10 of 21. Mission (23-10) also got 12 points apiece from David Sonnier and Andre Villarino, plus 10 from Cohn, while the fifth-seeded Eagles got 16 from Kaleb Daglish and 15 from Shawn Rodgers.
Dinuba 78, Lincoln 73 (OT): After the Mustangs turned a 14-point deficit into a three-point advantage over a five-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, they weren’t able to put away the host Emperors. Dinuba (27-8) tied it in the final moments on a corner three by Luke Rodriguez, who scored a game-high 23 points. Lincoln (23-11) got 19 points from Joseph Fox and 13 from Shakur Blaylock in the defeat.antonio abeytacooper fitzdarrius kendalldominic bartlewskievan terryhigh school basketballJunipero Serra High Schoolparker mcdonaldPrep Sportsrocklin high schoolrocklin thunderserra padres