With 30 victories in a single season and the first victory in school history in the state championship tournament, the San Marin High boys basketball had every right to go bonkers after Thursday night’s victory over Center High of Antelope.
Yes, the Mustangs held off Center 61-55 in the second round of the CIF State Championship Tournament’s Northern California bracket. Yes, Stuart Wesonga led the team again with 25 points and 21 rebounds, playing Superman as he usually does. Yes, there were late-game heroics by several players.
Yet the celebration was a tad subdued following the win, which sets up a 7 p.m. Saturday game at Redwood High between San Marin (30-4) and Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, which beat Sacred Heart Cathedral 74-61 on Thursday.
There were smiles and fist-pumps but no overwhelming emotions like there had been following the North Coast Section semifinal victory over O’Dowd on March 2 and the NCS title game win over El Cerrito on March 5. The crowd poured onto the court at the final buzzer and the players rejoiced for, oh, 10 seconds but then quickly got in line to shake hands with the Center players and coaches.
Coach Craig Pitti said his second-seeded team didn’t play as well as it wanted to and certainly not as well as it would need to for a win in the next round. Center, the No. 7 seed, only made three of nine free throws in the game and only stayed competitive with the aid of eight 3-pointers.
"The mark of this team, which is always impressive, is that we sometimes don't play our best game and find a way to win," Pitti said. "This is now three in a row — and its's against three good teams, O'Dowd, El Cerrito and now Center — for us to not play great ... I thought our defense fell off a cliff tonight ... but we found a way to win.
"It’s going to be very difficult Saturday night whether it’s O’Dowd or Sacred Heart. They’re both outstanding teams,” Pitti said before knowing that O’Dowd had won. “Our chances of getting to Arco (Arena, site of the NorCal final) on paper might not look good, but it’s one game. One game to get to Arco. I won’t lie ... If you would have asked me at the start of the year if this was possible … I’m a realist. But these kids have made me believer, though. Their effort has been incredible.”
San Marin took the lead for good with a Chris Glennon free throw with about 2 minutes left in the third quarter, but Center put up an impressive fight, closing it to 56-55 with less than 1 minute left in the game.
Glennon made a layup with 36 seconds left and then was fouled with 28.8 seconds remaining. He missed both shots, leaving the door open for Center. Wesonga was subsequently fouled and missed both shots, too.
But Wesonga was fouled again on a rebound with 11.6 remaining and sank both shots for 60-55 lead. John Seavey added one more free throw for the final margin.
Glennon scored 10 of his 12 points for San Marin in the second half. Jimmy Burrows had eight points followed by Seavey and Ryan Zirkle with six each.
Wesonga dominated the first half for San Marin scoring 17 of the team’s 25 points and snagging 10 rebounds. Center’s standout, Chad Haysbert, was held to two points in the opening half but ended up with a team-high 15 points. Christopher Smith pitched in 13 for Center and Devon Taubodo had nine.