By Matthew Snyder
Heading into Saturday night’s tournament semifinal against St. Ignatius in the Sand Dune Classic, Santa Cruz head boys basketball coach Patrick Jones wanted to negate junior forward Julian Marcu’s influence on the offensive end.
The Cardinals held a foul-ridden Marcu to four points, but they couldn’t contain St. Ignatius’ talented guards – particularly junior Trevor Dunbar – who propelled the Wildcats to a 69-45 win.
Dunbar finished with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and added four steals and five assists.
“I saw [Santa Cruz] play the day before, and I saw that they’re a pretty fast-paced team, up and down the court, and I knew that we can match that with our guards and with our bigs, who are pretty athletic,” Dunbar said. “We weren’t thinking that we were just gonna go through this game easily and we started out with great intensity.”
Marcu had led St. Ignatius (8-1) with 17 points in Thursday night’s 59-54 victory against Burlingame, but he struggled against constant double teams in the low post throughout against Santa Cruz (5-6).
St. Ignatius focused on freeing up its guards with ball screens and patience in executing its offensive sets.
“I thought they did a good job in the first half of just picking us apart,” Jones said. “They ran lots of picks, and they were running their offense for 25, 30 seconds of [shot clock] time and getting open looks, so that’s a credit to how well they execute. You end up chasing a lot.”
Dunbar and senior forward Matt Brown scored six points apiece in the first quarter to help the Wildcats jump out to a 21-10 lead.
“It was a big difference from last night’s game,” said St. Ignatius head coach Tim Reardon. “[We] just came out with a little bit more intensity, and we were able to stop [Santa Cruz]. Last night, we let [Burlingame guard Connor Haupt] go for 30 points, and this night, they had a couple good players, and our defense ended up taking them away. That always gets the offense going.”
Brown played a key role by reining in Santa Cruz standout freshman guard Kaijae Yee-Stephens. In the first quarter, Yee-Stephens scored eight points – including two three-pointers – but was limited to nine points after the first.
“Matt Brown is our defensive specialist,” Dunbar said. “We put him on who we want to stop. He just goes hard. He hustles, he dives after loose balls, he’s the hardest worker on our team.”
Santa Cruz cut a 22-point halftime deficit to 14 by the end of the third, but a St. Ignatius defense that totaled 17 steals and limited the Cardinals to 37 percent shooting from the field dashed any thoughts of a comeback.
“[Santa Cruz] got a couple of holes, because our offense wasn’t looking good,” Reardon said. “They came out [of halftime] in a zone defense, which I think was smart. It got us out of our rhythm, but once we played defense and rebounded and got out on the break, that’s what got it back.”
Dunbar’s efforts on the offensive end were supported from a solid all-around game by Albert Waters (13 points, six rebounds, three steals) and Brown (11 points).
“Our chemistry is very good,” Dunbar said. “That’s the difference from last year’s team. There’s not one superstar, there’s just players that can get hot on any given day. Yesterday, it was Marcu, today was me, tomorrow might be Al [Waters]. You never know.”
Trevor Dunbar – 19
Albert Waters – 13
Matt Brown – 11
Daniel MacLean-Vernic – 9
Andrew Vollert – 6
Kaijae Yee-Stephens – 17
Thatcher Sammet – 11
Cameron Scholz – 6
Kobi Underwood – 4
Three players tied with 2 points