By Jeremy Balan
It wasn’t pretty, but Mission High School overcame a Turkey Day hangover to win its first game of the season 72-67 against St. Mary’s of Berkeley in the first round of the Crusader Classic on Wednesday at Archbishop Riordan High School.
The Bears played sloppily and committed 24 turnovers, but scored 28 points off 31 St. Mary’s turnovers.
With seven players of Mission’s 13-man roster participating in the AAA football championship on Thursday, head coach Arnold Zelaya expected a shaky start.
“Honestly, there was a lot of football rust,” Zelaya said. “We’ve been practicing with six guys. The second half was much better and they settled down.”
After foul trouble and poor shooting in the second quarter, Mission surrendered a large early lead and trailed 30-27 at the half.
The Bears retook the lead midway through the third quarter and extended it to 54-39 heading into the fourth quarter after junior guard Kevin Murray hit three 3-pointers in a the final two minutes of the third.
Murray finished with 17 points and was one of the few Mission players that didn’t have a bad shooting night.
“Murray has been working really, really hard and that was big there,” Zelaya said. “He’s come a long way from being a little baby sophomore.”
The Bears shot just 35 percent from the floor, but took 82 shots, 30 more than St. Mary’s.
Much of the reason for the disparity in shot attempts was a dominant performance by Mission on the offensive glass. The Bears collected 26 offensive rebounds, led by eight from junior guard Antoine Porter and seven from senior forward Miles Prescott.
“What you saw today was a very inexperienced, young team,” said St. Mary’s head coach Manny Nodar. “You’re not going to win a game against that team turning the ball over 31 times and allowing 26 offensive rebounds.”
Prescott led the Bears with 13 rebounds, while Porter and senior forward Shaquille Fisher totaled 10.
“That’s Miles’ job,” Zelaya said. “He’s a shorter, less round version of [Charles] Barkley. He does all the dirty work for us.”
Fisher led the Bears with 18 points and Porter added 14, but both struggled shooting from the floor.
Still, Porter controlled the pace of the game, handled most of the ball-handling duties and had three steals.
“He just goes, and he’s the one kid who didn’t come off the floor,” Zelaya said. “The kid just scored the winning touchdown on Turkey Day. He’s a special kid, he’s my leader and he works his butt off.”
The Bears’ pressure defense may have caused frequent turnovers, but it didn’t have an answer for St. Mary’s junior guard Jeremy Dennis in the second half. Dennis scored a game-high 35 points and led a late St. Mary’s charge in the fourth quarter.
“He should have had 50 [points] if he came out and played hard the whole time,” Nodar said. “Again, he’s a guy in a situation where he’s gotta grow into it.”
Mission advances to the winner’s bracket to take on Burlingame Friday and Zelaya welcomes the solid competition early in the season.
“I will to learn more about this team if we’re down 20 or if we’re in a close game, than if we’re blowing [a team] out,” Zelaya said. “I want to know what I have right away against good competition.”
Shaquille Fisher — 18
Kevin Murray — 17
Antoine Porter — 14
Gione Edwards — 11
Miles Prescott — 8
Jeremy Dennis — 35
Jerrod Nodar — 10
Aren Ulmer — 8
Mike Pickney — 7
Kenny Greenwood — 3