By Jeremy Balan
It was only a matter of time before a dominating big man tested Mission High School.
One post presence would be a challenge for the guard-heavy Bears (22-11), but defending Division IV State Champion Salesian High School has two imposing frontcourt players, in 6-foot-8-inch forwards Desmond Simmons and Freddie Tagaloa.
The Pride (31-2) relied heavily on Simmons and Tagaloa on their way to an 84-65 win over Mission in the second round of the CIF Division IV State Championship Tournament on Thursday at Pinole Valley High School.
“We don’t grow them that big in San Francisco,” said Mission Head Coach Arnold Zelaya. “We knew they were going to get those buckets in there. Our idea was, if they did score, to get it and go, but they were in better shape then I thought.”
The CIF-San Francisco Section Champion Bears have been able to stun opponents with sheer athleticism and up-tempo play in prior postseason appearances, but could not matchup with Simmons and Tagaloa inside on Thursday. Simmons had a game-high 26 points and Tagaloa added 21.
“We knew we had the size advantage,” said Salesian Head Coach Bill Mellis. “They did a great job in the second half of pushing the tempo, but we just kept going inside and that was the difference, the rebounding and the points inside.”
Mission was able to hang with Salesian in the first quarter, only trailing 17-14 at the break, but the Pride took advantage of 13 Mission turnovers in the second quarter to go on a 19-4 run.
“We knew we had to take care of the ball and we just didn’t do it in the second quarter, Zelaya said. “We dug that hole and once you’re in that deep of a hole, it’s [hard to recover].”
Salesian took a 41-26 lead into the half and Mission never cut the lead to single digits in the second half.
The Bears were again led by a trio of standout senior guards, paced by Terrence Langston, who had a team-high 18 points.
Bears’ leading scorers Angelo Gulley and Javaughn Shannon added 17 points each.
Thirteen of Gulley’s points came in the second half, as he encountered first-half foul trouble for the second game in a row.
“We lost him early in the last couple of games, so we did kind of fight through it, we just gave up a lot of easy points in the second quarter,” Zelaya said. “I just wish I could take that second quarter [back].”
Several Mission players were in foul trouble throughout, mostly the result of having to guard the larger and more physical Pride frontcourt.
“The focus wasn’t to get them into foul trouble as much as it was just to try to get easy buckets, but the fact that they all had foul trouble obviously helped us in the second half,” Mellis said.
Even an hour-long power outage that threatened to postpone the game at halftime couldn’t stop the high-powered Salesian offense that had 11 players score points.
“We didn’t plan on the lights,” Zelaya said. “That just kind of delayed things. It reminded me a lot of ’89 with the Giants and the A’s”
With the loss, Mission’s season ends and the Bears will lose eight seniors, including four-year varsity players Robert Tran and Stafone Jackson.
“They’re awesome,” Zelaya said. “I’m so proud of those guys. They’ve been gentlemen the whole time.”