By Jeremy Balan
With senior standout guard Angelo Gulley on the bench for most of the first half, Mission High School rode a solid performance from senior guard Javaughn Shannon in its 58-55 overtime win over Capital Christian of Sacramento in the first round of the CIF Division IV State Championship Tournament on Tuesday at Kezar Pavilion.
Shannon had a game-high 18 points, nine of which came in the first half, when Gulley was out of the game due to foul trouble.
“Javaughn is our go-to guy,” said Mission Head Coach Arnold Zelaya. “Whenever we struggle with anything, he carries us. He’s our most mature [player]. Gulley kind of gets the credit for everything, but Javaughn is tough as nails.”
Gulley only had two points in a limited first half, but bounced back with 10 points in the second half, along with two crucial baskets in the overtime period.
“We knew [Gulley] was a wonderful player, but he got in foul trouble early and that allowed us to stay closer,” said Capital Head Coach Phil Oates.
With the solid performances from Shannon and Gulley, Mission (22-10) appeared to be in control throughout and had a 37-26 lead midway through the third quarter.
But behind seven fourth-quarter points from junior forward Brian Simmons, Capital (14-15) cut the lead to 51-49 with 19 seconds remaining.
Mission then turned the ball over to Capital on a botched inbounds play and Cougars senior forward Marshall Ruecker was fouled in the act of shooting to set up the potential game tying free throws with 4 seconds remaining.
Ruecker hit both clutch free throws to send the game to overtime.
“I was really happy for him. In our first league game he was in the same situation and missed [the free throws]. Being his last game as a senior, he can put away that ghost,” Oates said. “Everyone thought this game was over, but we scared them.”
Mission went on a 7-0 run to start the overtime period, but Capital again clawed its way back and had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds.
This time, however, senior guard Trevor Fairrington’s desperate three-pointer fell short, sealing the win for the Bears.
The difference for Mission was a pressing, physical defense that forced 25 Capitol turnovers, often feeding the high-octane Bears offense.
“We were emotionally ready for [the press], but when you don’t have that kind of team, how do you practice for that?” Oates said.
The Cougars did their best to frustrate the Bears with a 2-3 zone that limited Mission’s superior driving ability.
“We struggle against the zone,” Zelaya said. “That’s kind of our Achilles heel on offense. We struggled a little bit, but we’re still alive.”
Capitol stepped out of its comfort zone defensively to try to stop the high-energy Mission offense.
“We are strictly a man-to-man team,” Oates said. “We decided today to go zone. We felt like they were so quick and we had the height. Our bigs were not going to be able to step out on the wing and defend their quickness.”
With the win, Mission advances to the second round of the Northern California Bracket to face powerhouse Salesian High School on Thursday.
“We’re as locked in as we are gonna be,” Zelaya said of the Bears upcoming matchup with Salesian. “We’re gonna give them hell.”