By Bonta Hill
In the first round of the North Coast Section Division V playoffs, Bay Counties League West rivals Urban School and Marin Academy were neck-and-neck through three quarters.
But the Blues, who led 35-34 heading into the fourth quarter, couldn’t solve the Wildcats 2-3 zone defense in the final frame, leading to a season-ending 51-43 loss on Wednesday at Kezar Pavilion.
“Defensively, we held them to 51 points, which is good against that team,” said Urban head coach Joe Skiffer. “Basically, we couldn’t hit shots and their zone stifled us and kept us on the perimeter.”
The Marin Academy zone forced Urban (15-11) to shoot just 18 percent from the floor and 1-of-6 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter.
Still without junior shooting guard Matthew Monges, who injured his ankle in Urban’s BCL West semifinal loss to Lick-Wilmerding, standout Urban junior Nate Cohen was unable to get going in the second half, taking just two shots from the floor.
“Nate just had a hard time with the zone finding his shot and he was a little uncertain,” Skiffer said. “That kind of happens and you learn from it, but he did a lot of good things for us defensively. He does a lot for this team.”
The night started well for the Blues, who opened the game on a 9-0 run by forcing five MA turnovers.
But the Wildcats (14-12) didn’t let the early deficit faze them and began to chip away the Urban lead.
MA finally caught up midway through the second quarter, when senior guard Ernesto Garcia tied the game at 21-21 with a 3-pointer.
In the third quarter, both teams traded baskets, with no team leading by more than three points. Sophomore guard Harrison Golding’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave Urban a slim 35-34 lead heading into the final quarter.
Marin Academy, which finished fifth in the BCL West and didn’t qualify for the league playoffs, hit only three field goals in the fourth quarter, but shot 11-for-13 from the free-throw line.
“We wanted to prove to everybody that we belonged in these playoffs and we were hungry to move on,” said Marin Academy head coach Neil Caynan. “We made the adjustment to play zone even though we played man the entire season. I think it helped.”
Golding led Urban with 15 points, including four 3-pointers, and senior Julian Matulich added 12 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks, but the Blues’ season came to a halt.
“I’ll miss my seniors,” Skiffer said. “Two of them started, two of them nobody knows about, but really worked hard for us and helped put us in this position. They set the standard and hopefully we can get better from this.”
Nikko Edwards – 10
Andrew Schleeter – 10
Ernesto Garcia – 9
Kyle Roach – 9
Luke Winfield – 7
Harrison Golding – 15
Julian Matulich – 12
Nate Cohen – 11
Harry Krinsky – 3
Phong Tran – 2