By Jeremy Balan
Lick-Wilmerding High School’s boys basketball team was riding the wave of energy early in its first home playoff game since moving to Division IV against visiting Justin-Siena on Wednesday.
The 11th-seeded Tigers jumped out to a 15-6 lead midway through the first quarter, but the wave was short-lived, as Justin-Siena went on a 11-0 run and Lick never held another lead in a 58-47 loss to the sixth-seeded Braves in the first round of the North Coast Section D-IV playoffs.
“We came out well and we showed them we deserved to be here,” said Lick head coach Eliot Smoth. “We went after them, but they demonstrated they have guys, if you leave them open, that can hit shots.”
In the first three quarters, that guy was Justin-Siena junior guard Derek Wrenn, who hit 4-of-7 shots from 3-point range off the bench to finish the game with a game-high 14 points, but in the fourth quarter, it was sophomore guard Brendan Cardey who hadn’t scored a point as a varsity player this season.
Cardey, who was called up from the junior varsity team for the Braves’ Marin County Athletic League playoff loss to Redwood, didn’t take a shot through three quarters against Lick, but connected on all four of his shots from the floor in the fourth quarter and had 11 points in the final frame.
“We’ve actually been pretty lucky and had good bench play all year,” said Justin-Siena head coach Ray Particelli. “We have a lot of kids sitting on the bench that are very capable and our job is to mess around till we find out whose night it is going to be.”
The Justin-Siena shooters did the most damage, but the Tigers (18-11) defended 6-foot-6 center Eli Granata impressively, limiting the standout senior to just one point in the second half.
“I thought defensively, we were able to hold our own, especially against the big guy,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, they had two other weapons that hurt us.”
The Tigers stayed close until the final moments and cut the Justin-Siena lead to 44-40 with 5:53 left in the fourth quarter, but the Braves (21-7) responded with a 12-3 run to put the game away.
“Give them credit,” Smith said. “Every time we got close, they started to break away. That’s the sign of a good team.”
Lick senior guards Isaiah Boone and Phillip Stone Jr. led the Tigers with 12 and 11 points, respectively, in their final high school game.
“It is tough to see it end, because, as I told the seniors, you don’t know if you’re ever going to put on a pair of shoes again, be in a huddle again, have people cheering you on again,” Smith said. “That’s the most challenging thing – the love, the hard work, the leadership – that’s the most difficult thing to say goodbye to.”
Derek Wrenn – 14
Eli Granata – 13
Brendan Cardey – 11
Craig Moore – 7
Two players tied with 6 points
Isaiah Boone – 12
Phillip Stone Jr. – 11
Benjamin Schneider – 9
Matthew Bergland – 6
Anthony Shaw – 4