OAKLAND — Max Fried led all scorers with 19 points in the final regular-season game of his illustrious high school career, but it was bench players who helped spark University’s 56-40 win over Lick-Wilmerding at Oracle Arena.
Charlie Kennedy scored nine points off the bench and played stellar defense on Tigers star Zach Johnson, and sophomore Raki Cabrera-Scarlata scored eight huge points as the Red Devils beat Lick-Wilmerding for a fourth consecutive time and won at Oracle for a third straight year.
University (18-8, 8-2 BCL West) allowed just 16 points in the second half and pulled away in the fourth quarter after the Tigers had cut a pair of 10-point leads to three.
“They gave us problems with their offensive rebounding, and obviously Johnson gave us problems both in the post and on the boards,” head coach Randy Bessolo said. “Charlie did a great job of denying him the ball.”
Johnson had 12 of his 16 points and eight of his game-high 14 rebounds before halftime, but key adjustments in the second half let the Devils finally hold the league’s best true post player in check.
“We were struggling with him all game until Charlie stepped up big time and started face-guarding him,” Fried said. “He was a complete game-changer for us.”
Kennedy, who stands 6-foot-3 with a thin frame, managed to keep up with the hulking Johnson, never backing away from the tremendously physical challenge.
“I just had to get low on him because he’s got so much mass,” said Kennedy. “I had to get him near the knees and box him out as much as I could. Charley Moore and I switched on him and helped backside to make sure he didn’t get the ball.”
Still, junior Allen Wilson was able to keep Lick-Wilmerding (17-8, 3-6) in the game by scoring all eight of his points in the second half. He had missed the bulk of January with a bone bruise in his knee, but showed he’s back at full strength with Thursday’s performance.
“Our 1-2-2 zone really helped us out and kept us in the game,” said Tigers head coach Eliot Smith, whose team was far more competitive than in a Jan. 10 loss to University, even with a 4-for-15 performance at the free throw line.
Fried gave the Devils a 41-31 lead with a put-back early in the fourth quarter but was called for a technical foul after the play, and with two free throws by Phin Horowitz, and with a 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper by Wilson, the Tigers were able to cut the lead to three.
Moore stopped the momentum with a basket in the paint, and a huge 3-pointer from Cabrera-Scarlata put University back in control.
“My first shot kind of bricked, but at halftime I took a few shots that helped me get in a groove,” the sophomore said.
Like Wilson, Cabrera-Scarlata scored all of his eight points in the second half as he continued to perform on a team whose depth has been lauded by Bessolo throughout the year.
Two baskets by Kennedy, including a put-back with 2:30 left, put University up by 12, and the seniors for both teams were able to play the final minutes of what will likely be the last time the two teams battle at Oracle.
As for Fried, his 19 points and nine rebounds came despite battling foul trouble. He was called for his third with 5:35 left in the second quarter, but with Lick-Wilmerding surging, he was called on for two key minutes before the half came to a close.
A Kennedy 3-pointer gave the Devils a 23-13 lead, but the Tigers would score the next seven, including back-to-back baskets by sophomore Morgan Harris, prompting Fried to return to the floor, even with three fouls.
“My coaches do a good job monitoring my playing time and my teammates make sure to set me up to make plays,” said Fried, who plans to play at Emory University in Atlanta.