By Jeremy Balan
It was the championship matchup everyone wanted to see.
Mission High School and Wallenberg High School, each atop their respective divisions and each with only one loss in AAA play.
Each team also had a major candidate for AAA Player of the Year, in Wallenberg’s Garrett Moon and Mission’s Angelo Gulley.
Even though the game featured the two best teams and arguably the two best players in the AAA, it was one of basketball’s key fundamental aspects that was the difference in the CIF-San Francisco Section championship game on Friday night at Kezar Pavilion.
Take care of the ball.
Despite out-shooting Mission, Wallenberg had 30 turnovers compared Mission’s seven in the Bears’ 67-60 victory.
The Bears used an aggressive man-to-man defense to capitalize on the frequent turnovers with fast-break opportunities that often resulted in layups.
“The gameplan was to press on top. We thought our guards were better,” said Mission Head Coach Arnold Zelaya. “We wanted to keep running. I told them I’d be happy not to call any plays. We really wanted to attack the rim and get them in foul trouble.”
Mission was led by Gulley, who had a game-high 19 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
“Our offense is based on our defense,” Gulley said. “We wanted to get those turnovers and attack the basket.”
Moon countered with 16 points, with eight coming in the first quarter, but from the second quarter on, the Bears harassed Moon every time he touched the ball, often with double teams.
“Everyone in the city knows [Moon] is a great player,” said Wallenberg Head Coach Patrick Mulligan. “Give credit to Mission. They just played the game better.”
Wallenberg took a 2-0 lead with a driving layup by Moon, but never had a lead after that.
“We all knew, from the beginning of the season, that we could get to the championship [game],” Moon said. “They just came out [and played] harder.”
After taking a 29-28 lead into the halftime break, Mission used a late-quarter 8-2 run to open up a 50-40 lead heading into the final frame.
Along with Gulley’s contributions, a trio of senior guards helped the Bears hold off multiple Wallenberg rallies.
Javaughn Shannon, Dante Calonsag and Terrence Langston all scored in double-figures and each had more than four steals. Shannon led the trio with 16 points, while Calonsag added 15 and Langston, 10.
With the Bears’ keying on Moon, junior forward Aaron Brown carried the offensive load for the Bulldogs in the second half, finishing with a team-high 18 points.
“[Brown] was smart to recognize the situation and take advantage of it,” Milligan said.
The title is Mission’s second in three seasons, after a 14-year drought.
“Since I first came here, the goal was to build a program The City can be proud of,” Zelaya said.
Both teams will advance to the CIF-NorCal Division IV playoffs that begin on Tuesday.
“It’s new life,” Milligan said.
Moon is confident that the Bulldogs will improve heading into the regional tournament.
“We are going to learn from our mistakes and we’ll come out harder,” Moon said.