By Jeremy Balan
Defending champion University High School won it’s second consecutive Bay Counties League West title, with a 68-59 win over top seeded Stuart Hall at City College of San Francisco on Saturday night.
“We’re the defending champions, so we expected to do this,” said University Head Coach Randy Bessolo. “Nothing worthwhile is easy and Stuart Hall made it really hard.”
The Red Devils (23-6), who lost their first two meetings with the Knights, forced 18 Stuart Hall turnovers with a game-long press defense.
“We call ourselves the Runnin’ Red Devils,” Bessolo said. “We try to press all game, every game. We made it an extra focus tonight to deny them the ball.”
Senior forward Eli Ward and junior guard Noah Springwater led University offensively with 17 points apiece, with most of their points coming from three-point range.
The Red Devils hit nine three-pointers in the game and had seven in the first half.
University opened up a 52-32 lead midway through the third quarter, but Stuart Hall battled back to cut the lead to 59-57 with 2:38 remaining in the game, behind eight fourth quarter points from senior point guard Ikenna Nwadibia.
“We lost the game in the first half,” said Stuart Hall Head Coach Charles Johnson. “We were down too much and dug too big of a hole. We just fell short.”
Nwadibia finished with a game-high 22 points.
“He’s a flat-out stud,” Johnson said of Nwadibia. “The kid has a lot of heart. In our last three wins, he willed the team to win and he almost did it again.”
The comeback fell short, however, as University went on a 9-2 run to end the game.
“We out-toughed them down the stretch,” Bessolo said. “We showed tremendous toughness.”
Stuart Hall forward Frank Duncan also had a standout performance for the Knights, with 20 points.
Each team figures to get a high seed in the Division 5 CIF-North Coast Section playoffs, which releases its matchups on Sunday.
Johnson has mixed feelings about his team’s chances in the NCS playoffs.
“We think we can beat anybody and lose to anybody,” Johnson said. “That’s the kind of team we have.”