By Jeremy Balan
ALBANY — Hopes were high heading into the CIF-North Coast Section Division V championship game, which featured the tournament’s top two seeds, but the two teams couldn’t look farther apart on Friday night at Albany High School.
St. Joseph Notre Dame High School played arguably its best game of the season, and University undoubtedly played its worst in a 63-32 drubbing.
The Red Devils’ (26-6) offense, which relies so heavily on three-point shooting, shot 3-of-29 from behind the arc in the game, and produced their lowest point total since the 2005-2006 season. University also had 21 turnovers in the first three quarters and 23 total.
“I really can only make light of it, in that this game doesn’t matter in terms of the [upcoming state championship tournament]. We wanted to get all of our missed shots and all of our turnovers out of the way, and we executed that perfectly,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo.
What was most troubling about the cold shooting was that many of the long-range shots were open and often uncontested, something the Red Devils usually feast on.
“We had a lot of good looks early and a lot of them resulted in airballs,” Bessolo said. “It could be nerves, but at this point, we really don’t care what it was. I believe in all of our players and I believe in us as a team. We’re going to shake this off.”
While the University shots missed the mark early, it appeared as though the Pilots couldn’t miss in the first half, as they connected on 50 percent of their shots from the floor and 5-of-9 shots from three-point range.
St. Joseph’s most glaring advantage, 6-foot-10 senior center Brendan Keane, was almost a non-factor, scoring just six points, but it was the Pilots’ group of guards that controlled the offensive tempo and locked down University’s guards.
“That’s a very good team, but today our defensive intensity was beyond anything we’ve done all year,” said St. Joseph head coach Don Lippi. “We were all ready to play, and that’s what you want this time of year.”
The Pilots held the Red Devils’ scoring to single digits in each of the first three quarters, including just three points in the third, as St. Joseph opened up a 52-19 lead.
The CIF state tournament brackets will be released on Sunday, but after its performance on Friday, the NorCal championship runs through St. Joseph.
“The message we sent to ourselves tonight was, if we can do that all the time, we’re going to win,” Lippi said. “We’ve got the talent, and we’re really starting to click on the floor.”
For University, the focus appears to be on the immediate future, and a rematch with St. Joseph a distant aspiration.
“Given how we played tonight, we’re not really worried about another chance at them, we’re worried about our next game,” Bessolo said. “If we can get back on track, we’d appreciate the opportunity to play them again.”
Zio Enriquez – 11
Harold Getz – 7
Noah Springwater – 7
Jack Gale – 5
David Medoff – 2
St. Joseph Notre Dame
Dominic Lippi – 13
Nick Lacy – 10
Gemeny Givens – 8
Brendan Keane – 8
Three players tied with 6 points