By Jeremy Balan
University guard Chris Mah was not having a good game on Wednesday at Kezar Pavilion.
The junior, who has played such a key role for the Red Devils this season, missed his first ten shots from the floor and didn’t score until late in the third quarter against Ripon Christian.
But fate smiled upon Mah in the fourth quarter and he came through to give the Red Devils to a 79-77 win in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division V boys basketball state playoffs.
The Seventh-seeded Red Devils (20-12) trailed for most of the game by as many as 13 points, but tied the score at 75-75 with 48 seconds remaining and again at 77-77 with 19 seconds left. But the 10th-seeded Knights (23-7) had the ball on what should have been the last possession.
A Ripon Christian player got the ball around the free-throw line with his back to the basket, but the ball was knocked loose by University junior forward Harold Getz. The ball deflected directly to Mah, who controlled the ball with about 5 seconds remaining, then the junior quickly turned and sprinted up the court.
With a pair of Ripon Christian players in pursuit, Mah made in a right-handed layup with 1 second remaining and time expired before the Knights could inbound the ball after the basket.
“My first thought was that I couldn’t believe they didn’t call a foul on that play. I thought he was going to the line,” Mah said of Getz’s challenge from behind the Ripon Christian player. “Once I got it, turned and started dribbling up the court, I was just looking at the clock, trying to time it up, so I could get the layup with just barely enough time.”
Mah finished with five points, but led the Red Devils with a team-high five rebounds and seven assists.
“Chris was due and frankly, this year, we as a team have been due for some good luck,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo. “We were down, things weren’t working and guys weren’t making shots, but we just kept believing and each of the guys, including Chris, made big plays down the stretch.”
While Mah and several other University shooters struggled through most of the game, Getz buoyed the Red Devils, scoring a team-high 29 points on 14-of-20 shooting. The 6-foot-3 junior got most of his points on layups and drove at-will through the Ripon Christian defense throughout.
“Because of our 3-point shooters, defenders often hug our shooters, which allows him the space to do what he does,” Bessolo said. “It’s a matter of them choosing their poison and in this case, Harold went to work tonight.”
Rebounding and interior size was Ripon Christian’s most significant advantage, as the Knights scored 42 points in the paint and outrebounded University 41-15.
Ripon Christian’s 6-foot-5 senior forward Jared Goslinga scored a game-high 30 points and took in 12 rebounds, while his twin brother Jordan had four points and 10 rebounds.
“We were jokingly calling them ‘big country boys’ in practice and we’ve been undersized so often this season,” said Bessolo said. “When we’re going to be beat in the paint and outrebounded, the answer is creating turnovers and knocking down 3s, and in the second half we did both of those things.”
The turnovers came, and the Red Devils began to heat up late in the game, as the tempo shifted toward University’s run-and-gun liking. The Red Devils forced 23 turnovers and 13 steals, and shot 4-for-4 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter.
After jumping ahead 9-3 to start the game, University allowed the Knights to go on a 17-0 run and the Red Devils did not hold another lead until Mah’s layup in the final moments.
“When you are ahead the whole game and lose at the end like that – that’s tough. We had shots to put them away, but just couldn’t do it,” said Ripon Christian head coach Ron Vander Molen. “We held all but one team under 60 points this season and obviously we didn’t do that tonight.”
Harold Getz – 29
James Burton – 17
David Medoff – 12
Jack Gale – 9
Erik Anderson – 7
Jared Goslinga – 30
Josh Van Groningen – 15
Dan Vos – 15
John Vander Molen – 5
Three players tied with 4 points