By Jeremy Balan
SAN ANSELMO — Waldorf High School could have put the Bay Counties League Central championship game away at the free throw line against Bay School on Saturday at San Domenico School, but they did it the hard way.
Instead, it was two huge plays in the final seconds by senior forward Peter Schwarzenbach that sealed the Wolverines’ 45-40 victory.
Up 43-40 with 35 seconds remaining, Waldorf junior guard Nicholas Zatopa went to the line in a one-and-one situation, but his first attempt clanked off the rim. Schwarzenbach skied for the rebound and was immediately fouled, sending him to the line, where he subsequently missed his own first attempt.
After the miss, the ball was tipped in the paint by a pair of players battling for the crucial rebound and Schwarzenbach got to the lose ball and put in the easy layup to put the game out of reach.
“It wasn’t even about thinking, it was just instinct,” Schwarzenbach said. “While everyone was was worrying about boxing out, I just went right for the ball and got it. Then I saw I was open, and put it back in. I wish I would have made the free throw though.”
The Waldorf win spoiled an undefeated league season for the Breakers, where they outscored regular-season opponents by an average of over 28 points, including a 19- and six-point wins over Waldorf. This was also the first-ever postseason appearance in school history for the Breakers.
“It’s very tough one for sure in a season full of firsts,” said Bay head coach Pete Overfelt. “We’re not used to losing [this season].”
The Bay offense never seemed to settle in against a physical Waldorf defense that made it a point to deny Bay’s 6-foot-9 senior center Aubrey Russell the ball all game.
Russell would still finish with a team-high 10 points, tied with sophomore guard Lucas Knorr, but he only took nine shots from the field.
“He’s so big and so tall, you can’t beat him at the top, you have to beat him at the bottom with your feet and your position,” said Waldorf co-head coach Tom Kramer. “He’s going to score and get rebounds, we just went back at it again and again.”
The Breakers were also missing arguably their most dynamic scorer, junior guard Connor Mattoon, who was knocked out of action after sustaining a concussion in their semifinal game against Leadership on Thursday.
“[Missing Connor] hurt us a lot,” Overfelt said. “He’s averaging double figures, so that gives us a really solid rotation. He’s a top-notch player for us and we definitely missed him.”
The Waldorf offense also struggled mightily, but only for three quarters. In the second quarter it appeared as if the Wolverines couldn’t miss, connecting on 9-of-15 shots from the field en route to 21 points in the quarter, allowing Waldorf to erase an early Bay advantage and take a 28-21 lead into the half.
Waldorf junior Alexander Woodhouse led the way with 11 points in the quarter and went on to finish with a game-high 14.
“We’ve had every kind of challenge this year and our guys have learned to fight back, and that’s what we did in the second quarter,” Kramer said.
The second frame provided enough lift for the Wolverines, which shot just over 18 percent from the floor in the first, third and fourth quarters combined.
“We just couldn’t find our shot,” Schwarzenbach said. “We were cold from the start, so we knew we had to battle the whole way.”
The win sends Waldorf to the CIF-North Coast Section Division VI playoffs with the league’s automatic bid, while Bay will have to hope for a at-large bid in the Division V tournament.
Alexander Woodhouse – 14
Michael Beleson – 10
Nicholas Zatopa – 9
Dyami Bryant-Escobar – 4
Peter Schwarzenbach – 4
Lucas Knorr – 10
Aubrey Russell – 10
Henry Gale – 9
Zev Newman – 8
Bobby Bourhis – 2