Boys Basketball: Riordan holds off St. Joseph Notre Dame in Crusader Classic final

Riordan junior forward Bobby Arenas (right) battles for position with St. Joseph Notre Dame forward James Choyce on Saturday at Archbishop Riordan High School. (Photo by Doug Ko)

By Jeremy Balan

It’s been five years since the Riordan boys basketball team has had a winning season, but a familiar early-season benchmark has also been missing.

It’s been even longer since Riordan has won a Crusader Classic tournament championship.

Riordan’s 52-40 win over visiting St. Joseph Notre Dame on Saturday night not only gave head coach Rich Buckner his first Crusader Classic title in his six-year tenure, but might be the first sign that the Crusaders are back to winning ways.

“We haven’t won this thing in six years and it just feels good,” Buckner said. “Playing in third-place games, consolation championships – that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You always want to be in the championship of your own tournament. To play the caliber of team we did tonight and to play like we did says wonders about the guys in that locker room.”

Riordan junior guard Jiday Ugbaja makes a pass in the lane against St. Joseph Notre Dame on Saturday at Archbishop Riordan High School. (Photo by Doug Ko)

The Crusaders (3-0) handled the Pilots’ (3-1) active and aggressive 2-3 zone defense masterfully first half. Patient and collected possessions led to wide-open shots from the perimeter, and behind 12 first-half points from junior forward Bobby Arenas, Riordan carried a 30-19 lead into the break.

In the third quarter, however, the good possessions ended and were replaced by shaky ones.

Facing essentially the same defense all game, the Crusaders were confounded by the zone in the third quarter and scored just six points in the frame on 2-of-9 shooting from the field. The Pilots went on a 12-0 run to start the second half and took a 31-30 lead with 2:33 remaining in the third quarter.

“It never changes, whether it’s zone or man [defense], you always want to penetrate a defense and work inside out,” Buckner said. “In the third quarter, we were passing around the perimeter and weren’t attacking the paint.”

Riordan got the lead back and held a 36-34 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, then went on a run of its own.

After St. Joseph tied the game at 36-36 early in the fourth, the Crusaders closed out the game on a 16-4 run, spurred by guard Jiday Ugbaja. The 5-foot-11 senior junior scored just seven points, but five came in the fourth quarter. He also had a crucial block that led to Arenas’ third three-pointer of the game, swiped two steals and dished out an assist on another Arenas jumper to give the Crusaders a 47-39 lead with 2 minutes remaining.

“Jiday was struggling up to that point, but that’s the beauty of basketball,” Buckner said. “He was huge for us in the fourth quarter and he was probably the difference in the game right there in that 2- or 3-minute stretch.”

Arenas finished with a game-high 17 points and was the most consistent scoring threat for the Crusaders, but it was his effort on the defensive end that may have been most important.

After Riordan center Graham Gilleran got into foul trouble tasked with guarding bulky St. Joseph junior forward Temidayo Yussef, Buckner shifted Arenas and fellow forward Christian Hernandez to guard the 6-foot-7 post man.

Yussef scored all nine of the Pilots’ points in the first quarter, scored four points in both the second and third quarters, but was held scoreless by Arenas and Hernandez in the fourth.

The pair of Riordan forwards are both listed at 6-foot-1, but used their sturdy builds to muscle Yussef in the paint.

“They did it with their lower body, they were very aggressive and they got to him quickly,” said St. Joseph head coach Don Lippi. “They were pushing him out of there and he’s more of a finesse player right now than he is a post player, but now we know he has to work on that.”

Scoring Leaders

Riordan
Bobby Arenas – 17
Geru Mabrey – 9
Jiday Ugbaja – 7
Usman Hameed – 6
Christian Hernandez – 6

St. Joseph Notre Dame
Temidayo Yussef – 17
Marc Voisenat – 8
Justin Brown – 7
Marcus Harris – 4
Two players tied with 2 points

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25 Comments

  1. WCAL Fan says:

    Great game Crusaders. Looking forward to the WCal season. Fun team to watch.

  2. Golden Boy says:

    Good win. The Crusaders are for real and they will be a tough opponent in league play.

  3. Purple hammer says:

    Young bobby young bobby

  4. wcalsf says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Jiday is a junior.

  5. Old School says:

    great to see Bobby back in action!!

  6. Big guy 24 says:

    What a good effort by the Riordan team, up 11 and took St.Josephs best shot to the chin and fought back and showed character to win the game. St.Joe’s big kid #24 was having his way in the first half. He is 6ft8 and being recruited D1 by many schools and he’s only a junior this year. Coach Buckner decided to put Bobby at 6ft1 on him and he banged him and bothered him the whole 2nd half to get him out of his game. Mabry sat the 1st half due to foul trouble and the kids kept fighting to a 11 pt lead at half. Riordan looks like they will only get better and faster when the 3 kids are eligible. Arenas played a solid game and Jiday Ugbaja finished strong. Come on city schools, lets go!

    • AFitzsimon says:

      There’s five transfers actually:
      Eric Vrana
      Chiefy Ugbaja
      Frankie Ferrari
      Karim Ndiaye
      Shaquille Cooper
      …Unless you were talking about injured players that aren’t transfers…

  7. Just some facts says:

    The score was 55 to 27. Ask ARHS stats – I was there.

    • AFitzsimon says:

      That was Friday night’s game against Burlingame…

    • Just some facts says:

      Correction: 55 to 37 I believe. Ask ARHS stats 0 — unless I am confused by the Friday game which was also quite a win for ARHS – over Burlingame.

      Correct: 5 ARHS transfers and two on injured list – one being Zack Masoli. 16 or 17 ARHS players in all I counted.

      St. Joe’s number 24 was not only 6’8″ of so – but way over 210 lbs. He had to be a football player – maybe some D1 schools are looking at him for football. He needed TWO football size players like Chris Hernandez and Bobbie Arenas to hold him back. 2 or more of their players looked more like football players as well.

      • jbalan says:

        The score is correct.

        St. Joseph Notre Dame doesn’t have a football program.

      • wcalsf says:

        St Joe’s had at least 4 players that were built like football players and played physical ball. Good test for the Crusaders as they were also displaying physicality and speed. Good experience for the soon-to-be bench players like Hernandez, Padroes and Hameed. This team will be deep and talented. Coach Buck has the team playing tough, physical defense and an uptempo offense.

        • JJ says:

          Did Lamont Banks of St Joe’s play in this game? I don’t see his name anywhere in the scoring section. I remember last year he was a freshman and was one of St Joe’s better players.

          • M Air J says:

            JJ, Banks did play but he was not much of a factor. I was really impressed with Riordan and how hard they played. I will be honest, in watching the teams warm up, I assumed Riordan would lose. I was very happy they proved me wrong. Arenas was solid all tournament and not just in his scoring. He plays good defense and does all the little things a team needs to win. Mabrey again got into foul trouble early but the subs held the lead thru halftime. This might be an area of concern for Riordan. Mabrey is very aggressive in defense thus causing him to get into early foul trouble. I hope the WCAL refs let him play a bit more. Overall, Riordan is a very good team that will only get better once Masoli is healthy and their transfers are eligible.

            SI also won and without their football players. Was anyone at the game? Will they be better than most people think? Has SHC played any games yet? If they have I would like to get any feedback on their performance.

            • WCAL Fan says:

              I would have to agree with you M Air J. When I saw St. Joe walk on to the court with their height and bigs I thought to myself “Holy Moly” (well I didn’t say Moly but want to keep it clean) but was pleasantly surprised to see what the Crusaders did. They are only going to get better too. I hope Karim rehab goes smoothly and progress fast. Would love to see him in the mix this year.

            • wcalsf says:

              Yes. Very impressed with Riordan’s physical and aggressive play. #24 for St. Joe’s was a6-8 beast down low – he was very physical until he matched up with either Arenas or Hernandez. Crusaders did a good job of crashing on him to negate any position he was trying to establish down low. Once league play starts, the Crusaders can go 10 deep without much drop off. With the addition of Ferrari, Mabrey can continue his aggressive play knowing that either Jiday or Ferrari can run the offense effectively. I agree with Arenas’ ability to do all the little things a team needs to win…His shot release is so quick that the taller Pilots weren’t even close to blocking his shot. This is going to be a very fun team to watch this season!

  8. Don L. says:

    I’m sure the old timers will remember Don Lippi from his days at St. Ignatius. The man’s been around for a long time at a few high profile programs: Skyline (Oakland), St. Ignatius, and now St. Joseph.

    • AFitzsimon says:

      I believe his son was a star at St. Joes a couple of years ago… Dominic Lippi…went to Davis last year, not sure where he is now but did hear his name announced last year at a Davis but he’s not on the roster now.

      • JJ says:

        He’s at Whitman College (D2 or d3 school). UCR with Fox & Johns actually beat them a couple weeks ago. Speaking of Johns, he played about 10 mins in UCR’s last game and had like 8 rebounds.

  9. cityfansf says:

    True, Lippi’s coached some good teams over the years. This wasn’t the first time Buckner and Lippi “matched” up… When Buckner was a player, Riordan beat a Lippi-coached Skyline team for the 1990 NorCal championship.

    • wcalsf says:

      Coach Lippi is probably SI’s best ever hoops coach along with the “Wizard of Westlake”, Bob Drucker.

      • Ari Gold says:

        I guarantee you if Lippi was still the SI coach, he wouldnt have put up with SD31′s antics last year. He would have MADE him rebound.

  10. BigMikeDC says:

    Great news for ARHS – nice to see some positive press for this school.

  11. @SA says:

    I guarantee if Lippi was the coach at SI, they wouln’t have finished 6th and 3 kids wouldn’t have transfered out. Lippi is a very good coach. It’s going to be another tough year for SI. Riordan on the other hand is on the move and has a great future with their current and future players. Look for another solid class at Riordan.

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