By John Blomster
Burlingame 69, Riordan 66
After trailing during most of the second half, Archbishop Riordan came within three points of Burlingame High School, but could not pull off the upset at the buzzer in a 69-66 loss in the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III semifinals on Wednesday night at St. Ignatius Prep.
Despite a standout performance by Ivan Dorsey and an exceptionally aggressive full-court defense, the Crusaders (13-15) ultimately did not have an answer for Rodrigo Puliceno and the Panthers’ offense in the paint. The Panthers (21-8) towered over Riordan and played primarily at the rim, which proved to be the weak link in the chain of the Riordan defense.
“I thought the difference in the game was [Puliceno],” said Riordan Head Coach Rich Buckner. “We didn’t have an answer for him, and we’d been disguising our lack of a center all year.”
Puliceno, a 6-foot-4 junior, played almost the entire game inside where he loomed over the Crusader defense and was able to put up 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
Riordan jumped out to an early 13-3 lead, but the game soon turned into a shootout. Riordan led 19-18 at the end of the first quarter, trailed 34-33 in the second, and were down 48-46 to begin the fourth.
The Panthers pulled away in the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 68-60 with a minute to play.
Dorsey and junior Aaron Anderson hit back-to-back three-pointers to get within three points, but couldn’t beat the buzzer in the the final possession to send the game into overtime.
“I think the guys saw that we were down by such a small amount and everybody wanted to make the home-run play instead of taking the extra five or 10 seconds to rotate the ball and find a shooter,” said Buckner.
Dorsey went out memorably in his last game in a Crusader uniform with a game-high 27 points.
“[The key to this game] was our toughness on defense and stopping Dorsey,” said Burlingame Head Coach Jeff Dowd. “In the second half we did a good job on him and fought through the adversity.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral 53, Mills 49
Sacred Heart Cathedral rallied behind a tight defense and pulled off a 53-49 upset over top-seeded Mills High School of Millbrae in the semifinal round of the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III playoffs on Wednesday at St. Ignatius Prep.
In a tight fourth quarter that featured four lead changes and three ties, fourth-seeded Sacred Heart (13-14) was able to hold off Mills’ offensive onslaught and take the lead in the last seconds of the game.
With the victory, the Irish advance to the CCS finals against third-seeded Burlingame High School on Saturday at Santa Clara University.
“We wanted to get the ball to Kyle [Wong] to get to the basket or get a shot,” said Mills Head Coach Rick Hanson. “Instead, we had a turnover there, and it cost us.”
Down 49-48, sophomore Josh Fox gave the Irish a one point lead with a big shot in the paint with 17 seconds remaining.
The Vikings (21-8) immediately gave the ball to senior Kyle Wong, who totaled a game-high 24 points. The Irish defense then coerced a crucial turnover, forcing the Vikings to foul, resulting in the more points from the free throw line for the Irish, sealing the victory.
“I’m just hoping this team accepts who we are,” said Sacred Heart Head Coach Darrell Barbour. “We don’t think we can win by outscoring people; we don’t have that type of team. We think we can win when we stay on the rebounds and defend successfully. But they were a tough team to guard because they have so many guys that can shoot.”
Fox had a team-high 12 points and senior Karl Reyes added 11 in the contest.