SAN FRANCISCO — Archbishop Riordan’s celebration after a dominating victory over Sacred Heart Prep wouldn’t last too long.
The No. 2 seed Crusaders learned shortly after a 61-44 victory over the Gators on Wednesday night that their hopes of a trip to the CCS Open Division Tournament championship on Friday were dashed. With the loss, No. 3 seed Sacred Heart Prep also lost their spot in the championship game.
The No. 7-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral, with a win against Menlo-Atherton on Wednesday night and a victory for the Crusaders, advances from Pool B to the final in Santa Clara against the Serra Padres.
The Crusaders’ 17-point win on Wednesday and comeback win against Menlo-Atherton weren’t enough to overcome a disappointing loss to Sacred Heart Cathedral to open pool play on Monday. The Fightin’ Irish had Riordan’s number after playing against the Crusaders two days before the pool game.
“We did fine. We played well the last two games,” said Riordan head coach Joe Curtin. “But that first game was the odd one out. Played against the same team two nights later. It’s hard to beat a good team three times. We were not mentally ready for that, the consequences of that show now.”
But behind a 24-point performance from Christian Wise, Riordan looked strong against a messy SHP team that went 2-0 in the group on Wednesday.
The Gators got off to a hot start, hit a pair of 3-pointers, cut to the basket for some open layups, and forced a handful of turnovers to take an 11-1 lead early. Kaia Berridge scored Riordan’s first field goal, a three-pointer, with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Crusaders scored on a pair of ballpoint pens and began to find a rhythm.
Then Wise discovered his mismatch and took over. A pair of dunks put in a Kevin Durant-style fadeaway two to give Riordan the first lead and end the half with a 26-23 lead.
Junior wing Nathan Tshamala — cousin of Golden State Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga — started the Crusaders’ second half with a dunk and a pair of three-pointers, going basket-for-basket with Sacred Heart Prep guard JP Kerrigan and forward Sam Norris.
“They made some big threes early on, we just had to keep tighter,” said Curtin. “We knew they were good shooters, but sometimes you have to feel it and know how far you need to be from the guys. Once we figured that out, we were able to slow them down.”
But the Gators’ three-point shooting wasn’t enough to counter Wise’s power at the rim. He scored 13 points in the second half and the Crusaders pulled away and emptied their bench in the last two minutes of the game.
“He was a beast today,” said Curtin. “I told him there he was a monster, he found the mismatches and did what he had to do. And the team gave him the ball, so that was important.”
Tshmala finished with eight points, including two three-pointers in the third quarter. Berridge and Achilles Woodson finished with six points each. On the Gators’ side, Norris finished with a team-high 16 points and Kerrigan hit five 3-pointers for 15 points.
Riordan, Sacred Heart Prep and Sacred Heart Cathedral finished the group game 2-1. The Fightin’ Irish got the best aggregate score in the tiebreaker situation as it beat a highly ranked Riordan along with No. 6 Menlo-Atherton.
Both Riordan and SHP are now awaiting their CIF NorCal Tournament seeding, which will be announced this weekend.
“We have good momentum heading into NorCals,” Curtin said. “I’m proud of our boys.”