By Jeremy Balan
OAKLAND – Both teams couldn’t buy a jumper in the annual rivalry game between Lick-Wilmerding High School and University at Oracle Arena on Friday afternoon.
So the Tigers went to the boards.
Lick dominated the rebounding game to seal a 49-40 Bay Counties League West win, ending a nine-game losing streak to the Red Devils and avenging a 42-point loss at Oracle last season.
“What a difference a year makes,” said Lick head coach Eliot Smith. “In a game like that, you need to attack and we had good support on rebounds.”
Lick’s frontcourt combination of juniors Benjamin Schneider, Andrew Rauch and Matthew Bergland, all standing at 6-foot-4 or taller, combined to score 26 points and the Tigers (13-8, 4-2) scored 24 points in the paint.
“The boards were so important and that was part of our game plan,” Schneider said. “We knew we had to beat them down low, because we knew they were going to try to kill us with 3-point shots, and that’s what we did. We executed on the boards better than we ever had.”
The Lick forwards also played solid defense in the paint and combined with a cold shooting day for University, held the Red Devils to their lowest point total against a league opponent since the 2005-2006 season.
“I always say the most aggressive team wins,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo. “I don’t know if it was because we’ve beaten them nine straight times, the crowd or whatever it was, they were by far the more aggressive team and that manifested itself on the boards, they got to balls on the ground and physically defended their rim.”
University (13-9, 4-2) led for most of the first half, but Lick went on a late run to bring the score to a 25-25 tie at the break. The Tigers took control in the second half, though, and after taking a 39-34 lead into the fourth quarter, the Red Devils missed their first 12 shots from the floor in the final frame and didn’t score until the final 30 seconds of the quarter.
“When you play a great team like University and you feel like the game is yours, where their shots are going in and out, you just have to take advantage,” Smith said. “This is a great win for our high school students. It’s nice to get that memory in front of your entire school.”
The Lick win puts the Tigers into a three-way for first place with University and the winner of the Urban-Marin Academy game later today.
With five teams in the six-team league clustered near the top of the standings, Smith and Schneider stressed the importance of the final four games, because one of five contenders will miss the BCL West playoffs.
“We’re ecstatic right now, but we’re looking forward,” Schneider said. “We know we have a long road and we want to see them in the championship and beat them by 10 more.”
The two teams are heading in different directions, however, with Lick winning four straight league games and University dropping it’s last two after starting 4-0.
“The only positive from this game would be that this is an opportunity for a wakeup call,” Bessolo said. “Lick lost their first two and responded well and so did [Marin Academy]. It’s up to our guys to decide what team they want to be.”
Matthew Bergland – 10
Benjamin Schneider – 10
Isaiah Boone – 8
Phillip Stone Jr. – 8
Andrew Rauch – 6
Chris Mah – 10
Jack Gale – 8
Harold Getz – 7
Erik Anderson – 6
David Medoff – 6