By Bonta Hill
After beating some of the Academic Athletic Association’s best, University High School took its three-point act to Archbishop Riordan for one of the biggest tests it will have all season.
On Wednesday, the Red Devils passed that test.
University rallied from an early 12-point deficit and took the air out of the Crusaders sails in the second half, beating Riordan at its own half-court game to win 65-60 and stake its claim as one of San Francisco’s elite teams.
Zio Enriquez led the way for the Red Devils (7-1) with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists, which proved to be key due to an off-shooting night by standout guard Noah Springwater.
“When [teams] key on one of our [players], we have so many options, that when they’re taking something away, they’re giving us something else,” Enriquez said. “That’s our philosophy, when one guy is not playing well, the rest of us have to step up and do what we have to do.”
It wasn’t easy for the Red Devils, as Riordan (6-4) came out strong in first quarter and had 11-0 run on the strength of two Brandon Edison three-pointers, before going into the second quarter up 19-8.
Edison had a game-high 20 points, but with Riordan in complete control of the tempo and up 25-13, University started to get their offense going.
Springwater, who scored 17 points, helped aid a 9-0 run before sending the crowd into a frenzy by capping off the first half with a spectacular three-quarter-court, three-pointer at the buzzer to get University within 29-27.
“Riordan is a very well coached team and they came in with a specific game plan for us, and it really took us out of our game,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo. “We had to learn how to play a new game that was going to work against what they were doing. It’s a tribute to our team to not get frustrated and keep working at it.”
Despite the momentum hanging on the Red Devils side, the Crusaders stayed neck-and-neck with the Red Devils in the third quarter.
After Riordan forward Graham Gilleran hit a three-pointer as the buzzer sounded, the Crusaders were only down 41-38 with the tempo to their liking going into the final quarter.
That was the closest the Crusaders would get the rest of the way as the Red devils started the fourth quarter on a 12-4 run that put them up 56-44.
Enriquez scored nine points in the fourth, but also got help from forward Will Carroll, who had seven in the frame to finish with 16 points himself.
“We’re just trying to help Noah out. It’s a team game, but we know he’s going to hit the big shots when we need him too,” Carroll said. “Every other player has to be there though. We have to show the toughness. It’s not just one guy.”
For the Crusaders, the tempo was in their hands and by holding University below 70 points, Riordan head coach Rich Buckner thought his team would be on the opposite end of the score.
“We know they like to play in the 70s and 80s and our game plan was to try to negate their threes – we didn’t want to have our twos versus their threes,” Buckner said. “We wanted to make them do something that they weren’t used to and it worked for a while, and then we kind of got away from our game plan and played right into their hands tempo wise.”
The Crusaders actually shot better from the floor, shooting 47 percent to University’s 42 percent and University even had an off-night from the perimeter, making only 8-of-25 shots from three-point range, but all Buckner could do is give the Red Devils credit.
“I told my team that we have to tip our cap to a good team like University, one of the best three-point shooting teams in the Bay Area,” Buckner said. “They have spurtability and explosiveness with their three-[point] shooting. All of their players can shoot and they can all play the drive-and-kick game.”
Beating some of the City’s best, the Red Devils are relishing playing in these type of games.
“A game like this is so much fun for the kids and the schools,” Bessolo said. “Last year when we lost to Riordan, people said it was the most exciting game all year. This was an exciting game as well.”
Bessolo even clamored for the chance to play the other San Francisco West Catholic Athletic League teams, which he says has been a struggle in recent years.
“Every year we try to schedule [St. Ignatius] and Sacred Heart Cathedral, and they haven’t found the time to play us,” Bessolo said, chuckling. “I don’t know if it’s the Boise State syndrome or what, but their kids and their schools are missing out on some fun games, and tonight was a fun game with Riordan.”
Zio Enriquez – 19
Noah Springwater – 17
Will Carroll – 16
James Burton – 5
Harold Getz – 5
Brandon Edison – 20
Anthony Castillo – 14
Aaron Anderson – 8
Adam Del Castillo – 7
Graham Gilleran – 5