By Ernest Stone
For Lowell High School, the third quarter was the difference between a tight finish and a blowout victory.
After clawing their way to a 15-10 halftime lead, the Cardinals took over by outscoring visiting San Mateo 23-10 in the third quarter en route to a 47-25 win in the first round Cardinal Classic on Thursday.
“We got outmuscled in the first half, and I knew we needed to pick up the intensity,” said Lowell head coach Robert Ray. “We have to count on things besides our size, and the press was a way of doing that.”
Lowell’s (4-1) full-court press suffocated the Bearcats (0-5) in the second half, with 20 of the team’s 32 second-half points coming off of turnovers caused by the swarm.
For the Cardinals, the frantic pace that took shape in the second half came as a relief, as they struggled to put points on the board when running their half court offense.
Luckily for Lowell, its offensive struggles, which were highlighted by a five-point first quarter, weren’t exploited by the Bearcats, who failed to utilize their size advantage and settled on long-range jump shots.
“In practice, our guys love to play inside the paint,” said San Mateo head Coach Julian Hudson. “For some reason, when the game starts, they don’t take advantage of it, and it’s something we need to correct.”
Perhaps an even bigger problem for the Bearcats was transition defense, where Lowell players Ricco Price and Jorell Cacatian capitalized on fast breaks to combine for 15 third quarter points.
While the Cardinals only managed nine points in the fourth quarter, their third quarter surge was enough to comfortably close out the game 47-25.
Lowell advances to face Half Moon Bay in the championship bracket semifinal on Friday at 8 p.m.
“Everything we did well we did after halftime,” Price said. “It was all just a matter of the coaches telling us the right things and pumping us up, and we are a very close group so we respond well to that.”
Jorell Cacatian – 9
Ricco Price – 8
Casey Chow – 7
Avery Nicastro-Aikman – 5
Thomas Kroner – 5