The Lowell Cardinals became the first Academic Athletic Association program to win a state volleyball championship and St. Ignatius won a Northern California water polo title in what proved to be a fantastic weekend for high school sports in San Francisco.
After a thrilling NorCal final victory over Sacred Heart Prep, in which they lost the first two sets before pulling off a comeback for the ages, the Cardinals needed no such comeback to win the CIF Division III Championship.
Facing South Pasadena (37-8), the No. 2 seed from Southern California, Lowell won in four closely-contested sets, winning the first two by identical 25-21 scores, dropping the third 25-20 and taking the finale 25-23, clinching the title with the last of senior captain and AAA MVP Mariko Tanaka’s 12 kills. Alina Qi led Lowell (30-8) with 16 kills and Gabriella Quach had 43 assists.
St. Ignatius Water Polo: With no state championship for water polo, the regional title is the ultimate goal, and St. Ignatius attained that in Division III on Saturday, despite facing a late deficit to Walnut Creek-Northgate.
Leading scorer Billy Barry completed a hat trick with 1:43 left to tie the game at seven and Victor Dollosso’s second goal of the game 41 seconds later became the eventual game-winner. St. Ignatius (14-16) got an insurance goal from Patrick Wooler with 24 seconds remaining to seal the title.
Northgate (24-8) got five goals from Reid Stein, but Luca Caniglia made nine saves for the Wildcats in a game where neither team led by more than two. SI held a 6-4 lead at halftime after Barry scored as time expired in the second quarter, but the Wildcats were shut down offensively until their top scorer came through with just under two minutes left.
The Broncos got the lone goal of the third from Cole Sanchez, tied it on a goal by Omar Shalabi in the fourth and took the lead on Stein’s final goal with 3:22 left. Read more in our online recap.
Lincoln 41 vs. Lowell 12: The Mustangs breezed into the championship game for a second straight year behind a stellar game from Luis Contreras, whose 183 yards on 18 carries brought him up to third on the leaderboard for single-season rushing yards in program history. He’s now up to 1,973 for the year, only behind David Henderson’s marks in 2005 and 2006.
Lincoln (9-1) got on the board early and had the outcome well in hand by halftime, getting a five-yard Contreras touchdown less than two minutes into the game after Lowell (5-5-1) botched a snap on a punt. Quarterback Jonas Francovich scored on a three-yard run two minutes later and Contreras added two more touchdowns in the second quarter, finding the end zone on runs of 28 and six yards.
Tyree Cross made it 34-0 with a 20-yard score before the half and Andres Montoya’s pick-six in the third quarter initiated a running clock. The Cardinals did avoid a shutout in their first playoff game since 2013, getting a six-yard Adrian Navarro touchdown and five-yard score from Ronald Pollick. Read more in our online recap.
Balboa 25 vs. Mission 24: The Buccaneers led by two scores after three quarters but had to hold on for dear life, making two defensive stops in the final minutes.
Leading 25-22 after Mission (4-6-1) got a 78-yard touchdown from Jamareia Burroughs to Julian Neal, Balboa (6-5) was forced to punt it away with 6:43 left and the Bears got into the red zone with an eight-yard screen pass to Noah Lee and nine-yard run by Will Delaney.
Facing second-and-goal at the eight, Burroughs was intercepted by Roman Banks in the end zone. Caught up in the thrill of the moment, Banks made the mistake of trying to return the pick instead of taking a touchback, and the Buccaneers were pushed into their own end zone for a safety on the very next play.
Undeterred by having to go right back out on the field with just a one-point lead, the Balboa defense stood tall. Banks came up big on defense again, forcing Matt Cohn out of bounds before he could haul in a pass at the front of the end zone on fourth down. Jaziah Amataga ran for two short touchdowns and had an interception for Balboa, and the hosts also got a 25-yard scoop-and-score from Nelson Ropati.
Mission scored first on a three-yard Cohn touchdown, and Burroughs hit Cohn for a 23-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 19-14 before half. Amataga’s 67-yard interception return set up a four-yard touchdown pass from Raiden Thien-Jones to Chris Whiley, and while the Buccaneers wouldn’t score again, it was enough to advance them to their first Turkey Day Game since 2015. Read more in our online recap.
St. Ignatius 7 at Valley Christian 28: Injuries, illness and a Valley Christian team playing at its absolute best put an end to the Wildcats’ season. With four starters — including wide receiver Danny Ryan — battling the stomach flu, St. Ignatius (9-3) lost quarterback/linebacker Teddye Buchanan to a foot injury in the second quarter, already trailing 14-0. Zach Taylor-Smith led an inspired drive to cut the lead to seven before halftime, hitting Mike Harrison for a 12-yard touchdown, but Valley Christian (11-1) scored less than two minutes into the third and bridged the final two quarters with a demoralizing 12-play, 96-yard drive to put the game away. Read more in our online recap.