Boys Basketball: SI’s late push not enough to beat El Camino in CCS semifinals

St. Ignatius sophomore point guard Trevor Dunbar pushes the ball upcourt against El Camino on Wednesday at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

The highs of the St. Ignatius boys basketball season have been towering, but the lows have been equally abysmal.

In the Wildcats’ semifinal matchup with El Camino in the Central Coast Section Division III playoffs, that range of emotions all came in one game.

The third-seeded Wildcats played arguably their worst basketball through three quarters, trailed 45-23 heading into the fourth, then outscored the visiting Colts 22-6 in the final frame, but could not bounce back from the overwhelming deficit in a 51-45 loss.

St. Ignatius junior forward Stephen Domingo goes up for a contested shot in the lane against El Camino on Wednesday at St. Ignatius Prep. (Photo by Doug Ko)

St. Ignatius (11-16) shot just over 19 percent from the floor in the first three quarters, including 1-of-15 from three point range, while El Camino’s (25-4) pair of Michael Smith and Elijah White combined to score 24 of the Colts’ 26 points in the first half. Smith scored a game-high 20 points and hit 4-of-5 shots from 3-point range in the first half.

“We can’t dig a hole like that against a team as good as those guys,” said St. Ignatius head coach Tim Reardon. “In the first half, we couldn’t hit the side of a barn and those guys were hitting everything.”

But in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats suddenly found a spark.

St. Ignatius scored the first nine points of the half in just under two minutes on three consecutive 3-pointers (two from junior forward Stephen Domingo and one from junior guard Daniel MacLean-Vernic). Smith then hit two free throws, but St. Ignatius responded with a 11-2 run to cut the lead to 49-45 with 1:38 remaining.

The key to the SI run was nine El Camino turnovers in the fourth quarter that gave the appearance the Colts were self-destructing.

With time slipping away from SI, White, who only scored two points in the second half, drove into the lane and found senior guard Truman Lee under the basket for a wide-open layup to put the game out of reach with 40 seconds left.

The win puts El Camino into its first CCS championship game in school history.

“I think we got a little anxious and SI fought and fought. It was a really nervous time,” said El Camino head coach Archie Junio. “Everybody was just a little too tense. A lot was on the line, like El Camino history. It’s the first three quarters that saved us, not the last.”

Domingo and sophomore point guard Trevor Dunbar struggled to score in the first three quarters, but combined for 17 points in the fourth. As it has been for most of the season, when the pair is playing well, the Wildcats are dangerous, but when they’re off, they struggle.

“I was proud of the fourth quarter, obviously. They busted their butts to get back in it, but It was a microcosm of our year,” Reardon said. “[Domingo] goes nuts against Serra and we win and Aptos had no answer for him. He just got cold at the same time everybody else did.”

The Wildcats’ season ends in the CCS semifinals for the second-consecutive year, but with many key pieces returning next season, Reardon remained optimistic.

“If we play an average three quarters and we got hot [in the fourth quarter], we would have got them,” Reardon said. “It’s tough for the seniors, but there were four juniors and a sophomore that played a lot during that comeback, so I think they’re hopeful about what they can do next year.”

Scoring Summary

El Camino
Michael Smith – 20
Elijah White – 12
Anthony Knight – 10
Jalen Bitanga – 4
Matt Azzopardi – 3

St. Ignatius
Trevor Dunbar – 16
Stephen Domingo – 13
Nick Johnson – 5
Noah Bull – 4
Daniel MacLean-Vernic – 3

Here’s another bonus highlight video from our friend George Nguyen

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57 Comments

  1. GCJ 01 says:

    Number 3 on EC is quick and has good handles. Congrats to both schools. I hope that SHC is ready for EC.

  2. JJ says:

    In the bonus video, you can see the chest-bumping and the jumping up and down by EC, as the final buzzer sounds. Oh well, you guys played better, but at least keep your jersey on, when you are shaking hands. You can’t see because the video was cut short, but Elijah White took off his jersey after his chest-bumps. I also saw the holster thing by Smith; it didn’t bother me neither, but he was also barking at the SI fans whenever he got the chance, similar to last year when Burlingame’s center was talking smack in the CCS semis.

    Anyways, I thought Kenny Hatch should’ve got more playing time, because when he was in the game, SI cut the lead, then when they took him out of the game, EC’s lead rose to 22.

    • GCJ 01 says:

      The chest bumping is normal. However, the taking off of the jersey is highly disrespectful.

      There are ways to shut teams, like EC, up…..beat them. If they’re trash talking during the game and being disrespectful, there are ways to get their attention. One is to give one of their players a hard foul. For those of you who play ball you know exactly what I’m talking about and when to give the “hard” foul. I do not completely agree with this method. However, sometimes if the head coach isn’t going to make sure his/her team plays with class, you’re going to have to do it yourself.

      The important thing is to keep your composure, play hard, fix the mistakes that your team is making, and beat them. That’s the best way to put teams like EC in check.

      • WCAL Alum says:

        The pressure that SI put on them in the 4th quarter is the kinda pressure SHC applies the whole game. I expect a lot of infighting (i.e.frustration) between EC teammates by half time.

    • bubba says:

      man relax, i was at the game and nothing El Camino did after the game was over the top or showy. they were just pumped about winning (think about it, would you be able to hold in your emotion after seccuring a spot in the CCS Finals? i don’t think so). and as far as talking back to SI fans is concerned….. come on, really? i was sitting right next to the student section. they are obnoxious, which is ok, but don’t go after the El Camino players when they “bark at fans”.

    • FBC101 says:

      EC is coached by two CLASS acts. Chest Bumping? Do we not expect kids to be excited after winning a game against what most deemed impossible to win, simply because it was a good EC team playing in what the SI supporters think as an inferior league. Cut them some slack. These kids have worked their tails off to get to where they are.

      • Stone Man says:

        Funny thing is after the game SI was in the lobby eating, laughing and playing around. EC was watching the next game to see their competition and they were not laughing or playing around and they won. If they had lost you would not see one of their players laughing like it was no big deal. I would have thought there would have been some sad faces but the only one who seemed upset was #35 and the other boys were playing around like “oh well”. EC would never take any lost as a reason to act that way. If you want to slam them for stomach bumping you should look to your own team for the way they gave up and they gained momentum but left the game like it was no big deal. At least EC plays with passion for the game.

        • jbalan says:

          I don’t know what you saw in the lobby, because I wasn’t there, but I know what I saw when SI came out of the locker room. No smiling faces there and a few filled with tears in their eyes.

  3. WCAL Alum says:

    I imagine definately a very frustrating game for SI coaching staff by halftime. The players had so many good looks in first half and nothing but clank. Maybe it was wearing the blue uniforms and sitting on visitor bench.

    The fan base was not a factor. Kids sat on their duffs practically the whole game. Twice No.33 pleaded with fans to stand up and cheer. Nothing. They did their 1st cheer with 6 minutes to go in 3rd period, but sat down again once EC went up by 20. They they stood up and started cheering with 2 mins. to go and Cats making big run.

    It seem like end of 3rd SI was just going through motions. Players at end of their bench werent even watching the game choosing to watch fans coming into the arena. Start of 4th they went to school yard and things started to flow. EC was not as agressive and Cats took advantage and almost pulled it off.

    I honestly dont see how this team will be next year. Yes, Domingo and Dumbar, but league knows how to defend them. With little post play and without a pure shooter, it will be interesting.

    • JJ says:

      Alot of the big men in the WCAL will graduate this year such as SHC’s twin towers, 2 of Bellarmine’s bigmen, the VC bigman Stewart, Serra’s center Grosey, St Francis’s big center Dickey, etc…., so there won’t be 6-5 guys blocking SD31’s shots next year. Also, I don’t think that SI lost last night was due to good defense, but it had to do with poor shooting. 1 for 15 in 3pt shooting in the 1st half? If they shot 20%, they probably would’ve won the game. They had alot of good looks at the basket from my viewpoint. EC wasn’t even playing that great in the 1st 5 mins of the game, SI didn’t even score, that’s why EC was pulling away slowly. Then by the 3rd period, their confidence was pretty shot, so it did begin to look like they were giving up.

      As far as the pure shooter, the JV’s had pretty good pure shooters and Maclean-Vernic is pretty good right now….he didn’t get enough playing time. Nick Johnson was supposed to be the pure shooter this year, but he only had 5 pts last night, and I’m sure his FG% wasn’t that good like the rest of the Cats.

      • Scott says:

        JJ, it won’t matter if SD continues to play the way he is playing, he doesn’t play under the bucket. SH will have some guys that will be at least 6’4 next year. True, they are not Johns or Fox offensively but I think it is safe to say they can play D against SD right now. I hope SD improves his game for SI because he does have talent.

    • HS says:

      The slow down offense SI runs is intentional. They are not allowed to push the ball, except when they believe they have a clear advantage over substandard teams like Santa Cruz and Aptos. Only when they get behind by 13-15 points which was pretty typical this season, Reardon had no choice but to press and push the ball which is their best style of basketball.

      Having a team with athletes like Waters, Dunbar and Domingo and not taught a fast break or secondary offense and play a line up where they were out rebounded in most of their games this season is irresponsible. Last night, I believe they had less than 5 offensive rebounds with Waters at 5′-8″, being their best rebounder.

  4. WCAL Alum says:

    Well for Cats, it looks like it’s on to baseball, where they have arguebly the best team they’ve had since the 2000 team that shared the round-robin league title and played in the CCS DI final. It has been 11 years since a City WCAL baseball team has had a plus .500 record in league.

    A banner year to date for SHC athletic program, despite not winning a WCAL title which is the hardest thing to do, their program has played or will play in 5 CCS finals: football (lost), volleyball(won), both baseketball teams, and boys soccer, all to be determined.

    • JJ says:

      Yea, other than football, it has been a Down year for the Cats. SHC definitely deserves the Bruce- Mahoney, as they overall had the better athletic program this year. It would be great if the SI girls pull off the upset tomorrow, but Mitty honestly looks like a Pac-12 college basketball team. I don’t know how SI beat them earlier in the season.

      • Cats Pride says:

        That doesn’t make sense. What other programs have done poorly for the Cats? And how does SH deserve the Bruce Mahoney if SI had a good football year, but they still haven’t played baseball. I’m not saying SH doesn’t but your logic doesn’t make sense. If SI had a good football year, and a bad basketball year that would put the series at 1-1.

        • JJ says:

          Well, the major sports that people follow are football and basketball, and baseball…..the football competition is basically a draw because SI won CCS but SHC won the 1st leg of the Bruce…then boys basketball SHC pretty much owned SI, claiming the BH Trophy and sweeping SI. If El Camino doesn’t pull off a big upset, SHC should also get CCS.

          The other sports that come to mind is boys soccer, SHC is still in CCS, while SI is eliminated. In Girl’s basketball, SI pretty much owned SHC but SHC still can win CCS as well as SI…..I don’t really see the edge that SI has over SHC. If everything is a tie, SHC wins since they have the Bruce. Maybe since SI has a better lacrosse program than SHC, you can claim SI is better overall, but I just don’t see it, since SHC’s lacrosse program is just starting. Maybe if SI sweeps SHC in softball and baseball, you can make a case for SI.

          • WCAL Alum says:

            The bottom line, both have competitive programs in all sports and more importantly both are sending kids to college. SI has the resources to put their kids at a competitive advantage with their physical plants (ie fields), and SHC is making the most of their programs, despite their on-campus field limitation.

            And remember to a lot of alums the Bruce-Mahoney means a lot more than a CCS title-funny that way. That is no way diminishes or disrespectis the CCS titles.

            • Ari Gold says:

              Over the years I put less stock in the Bruce-Mahoney because in the end, its all about championships. Sure its nice to win it once in awhile. You think Auburn-Alabama, or USC-UCLA think its more important to beat the other team than win the national title? You’ll have your fans who believe that but we all know its all about the trophy at the end, not in the middle of the season.

  5. SF_Mikey says:

    I can’t understand why SI looked so flat and lifeless last night. You are going to have nights when your shots aren’t falling but that is when your defensive intensity needs to there. Inexcusable to repeatedly give Michael Smith wide open looks at 3s in the first half. Deny ball and go over the top on screens / pick & roll as he isn’t going to beat you off the dribble with his quickness.

    Also I don’t understand their offense which seems to consist of TD10 dribbling for 30 seconds then settling for a jump shot or dribble drive to the hole (one on five).

  6. Stone Man says:

    This is too funny. Watching people complain about chest bumping. SI Football team does it all the time. I guess if you are mad your team won, you complain about silly things of the winning team. The boys are young, excitable and bonding with one another. They were a team that people said could not beat Burlingame in the PAL Championship after beating Burlingame by around 20 twice in season.

    The three finger is so common and now and really shows how easily people want to find a problem when there is none. Concentrate on their playing. SH is the favored team but I think EC has put their name on the map this season and should be very proud one way or the other.

    • Big guy 24 says:

      I agree Stone man, give the E.C kids credit for their success and hard work. I am a WCAL guy but will be the first to say congrats and great job kids. SI is a talented team and for some reason the coach isn’t getting his team to play hard and play together. Again all credit to E.C kids. Next is SHC who’s players are either hurt or out with flu but they will be out there vs EC and it should be a nice championship game for both teams. Good luck to both teams!

    • JJ says:

      Sometimes, I wonder if you write fiction for a living because I didn’t see chest- bumping by the SI football team, except when they won CCS. Also, I didn’t see the SI players playing around and laughing after they lost last night. The only thing I saw was long faces, with most of the team headed home with their heads down, like they just came back from a funeral.

      • Observer says:

        Being an expert on student athletes and their emotions how would you Characterize the celebration displayed by SI after defeating Serra in the Jungle?

        • JJ says:

          I didn’t go to the Jungle game in San Mateo because it was sold out. Did Trevor Dunbar take off his jersey?

        • City Lights says:

          It would be tough to characterize the Cats’ reaction at Serra considering the massive amount of taunting of the players by the Serra students, the yearly chanting of “Cherries”, and the “we believe that we are tools” mocking of the SI student body by the Padre cheering section.

          • Nicholas S says:

            Basketball will always be entertaining and emotional, doesn’t matter what level of play. The cheering sections is what makes Friday nights fun as a student and alumni. We should be careful complaining, because they can tone down the cheering sections. They banned the face painting and decorations before.

  7. merkinworld says:

    It’s hard to beat a solid team like EC when one of your 1st team all-league players shoots 1-11 with only 4 pts. thru 3 periods.

    • Ari Gold says:

      Thats because hes not really a 1st team all-wcal player. Probably honorable mention.

      Its like what Reardon told JB against Aptos… Im paraphrasing but sometimes SI comes out playing outstanding like against Aptos and the next game they lay a big one on the court. So for the 1st 3 periods, that was the laying of the big one.

      SI will be solid in the backcourt next year with Dunbar and Waters returning. The rest Im not so sure.

      • JJ says:

        Man-crush with Al Waters? Yea, he’s a good football and basketball player, but you talk about him like he will be the next Deion Sanders in football and become a McDonald’s All American.

        • Ari Gold says:

          Man-crush? …. ok….. Waters at 5’8-5’9 I dont think even scored a single point in the game but when he was saddled on the bench with 4 fouls, he was LEADING the team in rebounds with 7 or 8… What is your 5’8 guard doing leading his team in rebounds when you have a 6’7 “shooting guard” forward and 6’5 center?

          Waters is the “poor mans” Herman Pratt. You can tell he doesnt care about any stats. He just plays hard and wants to help his team win by rebounding and locking up on defense the other team’s best perimeter player. The only difference is Pratt can shoot and is actually an offensive threat.

          No JJ, youre overanalyzing… Hes not Deion. I’ll leave the ridiculous pro athlete comparisons to you.

      • Scott says:

        Ari, what is your prediction of SHC next year. I think they will have a couple of guys that are close to 6’4 but they are not Johns and Fox, but young and they only can show improvement. I really like the play of Sophmore O’Reilly too, he has shown lots of improvement over the last 6 games. So I think the Post positions are questionable. However, with guards Pratt, James and Otis I think they can easily play and hang with Dunbar and Waters.

        • M Air J says:

          Next year SH will be like Riordan this year, above average guards with no interior presence. The SH guards look better than they are because teams have to sag on defense to try and contain the 2 dominat bigs. The will not get those wide open looks next year that they got this year. I’ve seen several airballs from three by the SH guards with no defensive pressure. If defenses don’t have to worry about a strong post presence, they will struggle to make threes. The driving lanes wont be as wide either. They will have to create their own shots which is a lot more challenging than what they faced this year. You saw glimpses of it in last nights game. Johns was a man among boys. He singlehandedly won the game. He made the VC 6’9 kid look 5’9. You take him off the team last night and SH loses. So unless they have another Soph transferring in who is 6’4 or taller and can play (wouldn’t surprise me if they do), they will be a middle of the pack team or posibly worse.

          WCAL play is usually won in the paint. The top 3 teams this year had dominant bigs: Gordon, Fox, Johns, Caruso. Mitty and Serra also had several kids in the 6’5-6’7 range as well. The top three teams had above average but not great guards. they didn’t need great guards since the bigs made them servicable.

        • Ari Gold says:

          @Scott… There will be some regression next year for SH (maybe 6-8 fewer wins). But as long as we have Coach Barbour, I know SH will be a winning and super competitive team that will finish middle of the pack in WCAL and be in the CCS Div 3 title game. Sorry but those PAL schools dont scare SH. They are like AAA teams.

          Im hoping Liam O’Reilly grows 3-4 inches so he can be 6’5-6’6… Though very thin, you can see his maturation over the course of the season. However, if he still stands 6’2 next year, Im sure he will have a far more difficult time scoring and rebounding without Johns & Fox on the court.

          James, Pratt, Otis, O’Reilly and Parsons will be a quick bunch and will be fun watching them get up and down…. Here’s my recruiting call to any AAA big men (6’5″ and up apply). Come to SH!! Come play for Coach Barbour!!! Come get a very nice Catholic education!!! So what if it costs $15,000+??? Its worth it!

          • Scott says:

            Thanks Ari…. I think they have a kid on the freshman A team that is almost 6’4 now, he grew, he was listed at 6’1 beginning the season. . They also have O’leary on Jv’s that is about 6’3 or 6’4. Although, they are anything but a finished product being so young, they can contribute. Next year they still have Yanoj Jackson but I think he is as tall as Liam O’Reilly but bigger. I think it will be interesting, someone also mentioned Arena’s brother may even go out for basketball his senior year at SHC. I do not know how big he is but people say he is the better shooter of the brothers. Go Irish!!

  8. Scott says:

    Does anyone know if the young freshman Parsons got any playing time yesterday? I think I heard Alberto and Ryan Sera did? I was just curious who was coming off the bench. Thanks to anyone who can elaborate.

    • jbalan says:

      All three played solid minutes in the first half. I wasn’t following the game tremendously close, but I was in the gym working on 100 other things on my computer. I believe Sera hit a 3 in the first half.

    • SF_Mikey says:

      Parsons has worked himself into the rotation nicely with Fox out. He’s been giving them decent minutes. Didn’t really do much last night to distinguish himself either good or bad. He looks pretty solid / polished for a freshman.

  9. Scott says:

    Thank you JB…I appreciate everything you do to keep us fans up to date! Im sure it is not easy.

  10. SI_Alum_EC_Parent says:

    How is taking off the jersey disrespectful? Elijah had an under shirt on. Its not like he was shirtless. These EC kids have worked hard to get where they’re at. Many people believed EC had no chance to win this game. Some even believe the first meeting was just a fluke win by the Colts because some of the SI players weren’t prepared because they were just coming of their football season or that it was Domingo’s first game back. Come on give these kids a break they accomplished a lot.

    • JJ says:

      I think taking off your jersey is like taking off your helmet after you score a touchdown. Why couldn’t he take off his jersey in the locker room like 99.99% of basketball players? Maybe he didn’t mean any disrespect, or maybe he did? Congrats to the Colts, they seemed to want to win the game more. Blowing out Aptos gave SI too much confidence and probably backfired in their face.

    • merkinworld says:

      congratulations EC. nice win. i’m an si grad currently paying sh tuition. go irish

  11. M Air J says:

    SI missed several free throws and wide open layups. They make those they win.

    • merkinworld says:

      The better team won. All-league players need to step up. One si all league player stepped up, the other didn’t. The 3 EC all-league players stepped up.

      • M Air J says:

        The players that missed the wide open layups and free throws were the all league players. Making those shots would be considered stepping up and they would have meant an SI win.

        • JJ says:

          Maybe next time SI shouldn’t spot their opponent a 22 pt lead. I don’t remember 1 game where SI came back from behind and won when trailing at halftime. At halftime vs EC, SI was down by 13. When they beat Serra, they were leading at halftime. Most, if not all the games they won, they were leading at halftime. Oh well, the season is over for SI basketball. Now we have to wait 9 long months to see them back on the court and rekindle the magic. Hope everyone improves in the AAU circuit. There will be less comments on this board because SI is eliminated; they are like the Yankees, you either hate them or love them.

          • WCAL Alum says:

            If history is any indication, I suspect some Irish supporter will make an off-the-cuff and ill-advised statement that will fuel the flame of Cat supporters.

            • JJ says:

              I’m sure everything’s been covered already by now, after SI’s basketball season. Plus, JBalla reads the comments before they are posted, so I doubt anything controversial will be posted from now on. Next year, maybe NorCals can add the top 3 teams from CCS, NCS, etc, like what MLBaseball is doing now adding the playoff teams from 8 teams to 10. NorCals is “boring” when SI isn’t in it, lol. It’s like not having the NY Yankees in the playoffs.

            • Scott says:

              Come on WCAL ALUM, you can’t blame SH for making an ill advised statement or off the cuff remark…Please don’t try to sit here and say SI doesn’t flame the same fire against SH…Both schools represent the rivalry and for you to say only one school is talking smack is shortsighted. What did Tom Brady say in his speech? Yes, he stated he did not like SI either a couple of weeks ago.

  12. Baller says:

    I see yu Jalen Bitanga. Bay city for life lol

  13. Bball fanatic says:

    C’mon STONE MAN, kids can’t eat after a hard fought game? Did you expect to see them
    On “suicide watch?” I was in the lobby on the way out and I didn’t see the kids that aspire to play D1 Basketball when their SI days are over “Laughing.”
    What most folks don’t understand, this is not Findlay Prep. This team has alot of (2 and sometimes 3) sport athletes. This is why they didn’t go as far as projected. There are only a few kids on the team that work to perfect their craft (off campus), which is why they didn’t play like a team and always get out hustled and out rebounded.

    @ WCAL ALUM…the only person in the league that knows how to defend Domingo and Dunbar is that “slow down, patient offense.”

    • merkinworld says:

      Sorry don’t agree. every team in the wcal plays defense. sd 31 might get 30 a game in aau where defense doesn’t exist, but in league every possession is a battle and points have to be earned with hard work. Headlines don’t matter.

      • Big guy 24 says:

        I agree merkinworld 100% with your opinion about every possesion is a grind and physical. WCAL is very tough with smart coaches and good players too. Every school has there ups and downs and SI had a decent year but not up to expectations but they should be good next year as SHC loses their 2 headed monster in Fox and Johns. I think the city schools should be solid next year but of course Gordan will be back for Mitty and Serra will be very strong with 4 out 5 starters returning. Keep working hard kids…

        • merkinworld says:

          @Big guy 24. You are right on. Mitty w/Gordon and Serra w/Caruso will probably be 1-2. I think SI will bounce back and have a strong year. SH will definitely have a hole in the middle without the 2 big guys. They not only complement each other well, they make perimeter guys that much better. This SH team plays great team ball, and is well-coached. TJohns was impressive in the last 2 wins without Fox. Good luck to all the city schools still alive in the playoffs. High School ball is a great bang for your buck. Saw a lot of familiar faces at SI this last week.

  14. @SA says:

    Guys, don’t want to rain on your parade for the Cats next year, but I wouldn’t expect a different outcome if Reardon is still coaching. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they finish behind Riordan

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