HAYWARD — There was nothing easy about this game. Not in the first quarter when California ran into a quick 10-point lead. Not in the fourth quarter after Moreau Catholic opened up a double-digit advantage herself.
But the home team got their goal.
As the final second rolled off the clock on Tuesday night, second-seeded Moreau survived 71-69 to advance to Saturday’s North Coast Section Division I Final against Clayton Valley Charter at Dublin High.
“They dug deep,” said coach Frank Knight. “That’s a display of character that happened. They could have given up, 10 lower. They kept fighting and kept digging and thinking about the next game. There was never a moment in the dressing room or the group when we thought we couldn’t win the game.”
Moreau, looking to avoid a loss in this round for the second consecutive season, trailed against a talented opponent throughout the first half and well into the third quarter before a flurry of blocks, dunks and clutch shooting turned the tide.
Senior winger LeBrie Goudy-Lee nearly brought the house down on the third quarter rise as he made a spectacular block at one end, charged upfield and finished strong at the other end to tie the score 47 -47.
Later, Joseph Cid buried a 3-pointer from the corner to put Moreau ahead 52-50.
As third-seeded California tried to run the clock for the last shot of the quarter, Jesse Ybarra unhooked the ball and it landed in the hands of Kellen Hampton for a breakaway dunk that widened the margin to 54-50.
“I was hyped,” said Hampton, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. “But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They put all my buckets in front of me.”
Cal tried again for the last shot of the period, but lost the ball out of bounds with 1.5 seconds left.
Ybarra, a senior point guard, threw a long inbound pass to Cid, who drove up a short jumper that went in as time expired.
The basket made it 56-50 heading into the final period.
Moreau wasn’t done yet.
Hampton began the fourth quarter with a three-point play—basket, foul, free throw—then Goudy-Lee followed another block with a dunk to extend the advantage to 61-50.
Goudy-Lee finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
“LeBrie is one of the best kids I’ve ever coached,” said Knight. “He played for me for four years. He bought in. He plays hard. He’s a leader.”
But this night no double lead was safe, not even for the home team.
California cleared the deficit and had a chance to send the game to overtime when Moreau missed the second of two free throw attempts with 16.2 seconds remaining, leaving the score 70–67.
But as the visitors tried to get the ball upfield, Kevin Chapman stepped into a passing lane to make the game-saving steal for Moreau.
The Mariners made another free throw with 9.8 seconds left to extend the lead to four, then conceded an uncontested layup. With California running out of timeouts, the Mariners let the clock tick down for the final seconds without entering the ball.
“The second half they really came back and forced us to be a little too aware with our offense,” said California coach Steve Ohlmeyer. “Couldn’t get things going and them guys, to their credit, kept fighting, man. Even though we got off to a very fast start, I think we got a bit tired halfway through the game and also got into trouble.”
California had three players score in double digits: Amari Gray (20), Damarcus Collins (16) and Kellen Torrey (14).