By Bonta Hill
An old sports adage states that you should never question the heart of a champion.
When it comes to the Bay Counties League West, that champion is University.
With the Urban School crowd revved up for one of its biggest games in recent history, junior guard Chris Mah and University outlasted the Blues 62-56 on Tuesday night at Kezar Pavilion.
University (15-10, 7-2), which used a 17-2 run in the second quarter to take control of the game, broke a first-place tie between the two teams and clinched the top seed in the league playoffs.
“Obviously Urban is a great team and [Urban head coach] Joe Skiffer has done a helluva job with that team, and in spite of them hitting us in the mouth, we took our lumps and bounced back,” said University head coach Randy Bessolo.
Mah led University with 18 points, many of which came on drives to the basket, but it was his two assists late in the fourth quarter that sealed the win for University.
Clinging to a 50-44 lead with 3:25 left in the game and Urban charging hard on the strength of 10 fourth-quarter points from senior center Julian Matulich, Mah hit junior James Burton for a wide open 3-pointer to stretch the Red Devils’ lead to 53-44.
Again, Urban would get within six points with just over a minute left, but Mah hit junior David Medoff for a crushing 3-pointer, giving University a 58-49 lead.
“I was mainly focused on finishing shots, because I felt I was playing soft in the first quarter,” Mah said. “I’m really impressed with the team in picking up the slack tonight.”
Urban (15-9, 6-3) was led by Matulich’s 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks, while junior Nate Cohen added 20 points.
The Blues, who play Stuart Hall on Friday with second place on the line, simply couldn’t slow Mah down when they needed to.
“University is a good team and at the end of the day, we could not keep Chris Mah in front of us,” Skiffer said. “Not only was he scoring, but he was breaking down our defense over and over again.”
Urban shot 63 percent from the floor in the fourth quarter, but its second-quarter miscues were too much to overcome despite a strong start to the game.
Cohen scored eight first-quarter points to give the Blues a 12-6 lead after the first frame, but seven turnovers in the second quarter gave University the chance to go into halftime leading 28-17.
Still, Skiffer and company won’t be hanging their heads after the tough defeat.
“We showed more maturity than the first time we played University,” Skiffer said. “Hopefully that can carry us forward in the playoffs.”
While Urban and the rest of the tightly-contested BCL West will be gunning for the three-time defending league champs, it won’t be easy wrestling the title away from the Red Devils.
“We’ve faced adversity all season, with three players lost to injuries,” Bessolo said. “But just like our season, we got hit in the mouth and bounced back. And Chris was the central figure.”
Chris Mah – 18
Harold Getz – 12
David Medoff – 11
Jack Gale – 9
James Burton – 8
Nate Cohen – 20
Julian Matulich – 20
Harrison Golding – 7
Matt Monges – 5
Two players tied with 2 points