SAN MATEO — The Serra Padres are notoriously tough to beat at home, but Wednesday night marked the third straight year the Bellarmine Bells have won at Morton Family Gymnasium, and the 62-53 loss knocked Serra out of a tie for first place in the West Catholic Athletic League.
Riordan — which won 59-58 over Mitty on Wednesday — now sits alone in first place, and will travel to Bellarmine (13-3, 4-2 WCAL) on Saturday to close out the first half of league play.
Serra’s home court, known as “The Jungle,” can often be an intimidating place for opponents, but Bellarmine star and Menlo Park resident Kiran Kruse has embraced the trips he’s made there.
“I love playing at Serra,” Kruse said. “You talk to people around the league and they say, ‘Ooh, at Serra, that’s one of the toughest games,’ but I’ve grown up with a lot of these guys, playing basketball with them since elementary school, and I’m glad to have had one of my best games so far this year here.”
Kruse led all scorers with 25 points and drained four 3-pointers on rims that are typically unforgiving to visitors. Serra (12-4, 4-2) seemed to be on the way to another late comeback after a Patrick Simon 3-pointer closed the gap to four at the end of the third, but Kruse opened the fourth with back-to-back steals and layups.
After Parker McDonald split a pair of free throws at the line, Kruse connected on his final three of the night to open up a 49-39 lead, and the Padres would never get closer than seven over the final six minutes.
“There are big baskets than can build to momentum, and we just never got those, and you have to play through that if you want to do something special. That’s where your defense has to kick in, and we couldn’t get one big stop,” said Serra head coach Chuck Rapp. “The few we made were tough looks, and we need to get easier shots. We had nine assists and 11 turnovers.”
An Antonio Abeyta offensive rebound led to a Cooper Fitz 3-pointer to cut the lead to 53-46 with 3:02 left, but a Constantijn Cole and-one at the other end on the following possession put the Bells back up by 10, and Serra wouldn’t get it back down to seven until the final 30 seconds.
The one constant for the Padres was Cade Rees, whose team-high 21 points marked the third straight game and fourth time in six WCAL contests he has broken the 20-point mark. For the third consecutive game, he went a perfect 8-for-8 at the free throw line, bringing his streak of consecutive makes to 24. The last time he missed at the line was in last Tuesday’s win over Riordan, as he’s shown no lingering signs of the knee injuries that kept him out for his entire junior season.
“It was a struggle at first to get back to the level I’m at now, but I feel 100 percent,” the 6-foot-7 Rees said.
Rees wasn’t accompanied by much secondary scoring, though. McDonald was held to just eight, though 6-foot-9 junior Muti Shuman, who had to sit out non-league play after transferring from Woodside Priory, added eight off the bench as well.
Shuman (10 points) and Rees gave the Bellarmine bigs a handful and caused serious foul problems, but the visitors were able to weather the storm with a mix of post players. Sophomore Ryan Kiachian scored seven off the bench and even Scott Nelson, one of the last players on Patrick Schneider’s bench, gave key minutes in the fourth quarter with Cole, Bellarmine’s starting center, in foul trouble.
Lefty shooter Gio Saso added 10 for the Bells, who are now tied with Mitty, Serra and St. Ignatius in second place. The Padres travel to Mitty on Saturday.
St. Ignatius 76, Valley Christian 75 (OT): The long trip to Valley Christian is always a difficult one for City teams, and with horrible weather turning the ride to San Jose into a 2-hour, 20-minute ordeal, the St. Ignatius Wildcats came out shaky and had to engineer a frantic comeback to stay in the hunt for the WCAL title.
Trailing by eight with 90 seconds left, St. Ignatius (8-8, 4-2) got clutch 3-pointers from Neal Begovich and Wrenn Robinson, then sent the game to overtime after a basket in the lane by Robinson tied the game at 68 and the Warriors’ chance to win it rimmed out.
In overtime, Robinson, who scored a game-high 35, made the last of his eight 3-pointers and the Wildcats held on for the one-point victory. Valley Christian (10-6, 1-5) got 22 points from football standout D’Von Lang, 21 from 6-foot-9 Jay Allen-Tovar, 15 from Skylar Loving-Black, an Iowa State football commit, and 11 from Isiah Saqui. Begovich finished with 17 and 10 rebounds for SI, Kourosh Kahn-Adle scored 11 and Garrett Cason scored six points while collecting a game-high 16 rebounds.
St. Francis 61, Sacred Heart Cathedral 53: The Fightin’ Irish lost their fourth straight and 11th consecutive WCAL road contest dating back to 2017 as St. Francis (9-7, 1-5) got 16 points from Sebastian Pelayo and 13 apiece from Matteo Fontana and Roy Yuan. The irish got 12 points from Osin McCormack and 10 points from freshman Ray John Jackson.
The Lancers got two starters, Oscar Pedraza and Maurice Wilmer, back from injury on Saturday and are starting to find their form as they finally have a full roster. Sacred Heart Cathedral (8-8, 1-5) will host Valley Christian on Saturday.