Nor Cal Division V Regional Final:
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 54, Central Catholic (Modesto) 42By Gerry Freitas
The St. Joseph Notre Dame Pilots used an 18-2 run in the second quarter to surge ahead of the Central Catholic Raiders 29-13 at the half and never looked back in winning by a score 54-42. The Pilots improve to 30-5 on the season and win their fourth Nor Cal title in a row and fifth out of six.
This was their 11th appearance in the Nor Cal finals where they now stand at 10-1 overall. They have won four previous state championships (in nine appearances). Central Catholic finishes the year at 27-7.
The key for St. Joseph's was a stifling 2-3 zone that caused Central Catholic to shoot a miserable 29% (14 of 47) from the field. Pilots' veteran coach Don Lippi said he credited Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim with influencing him to use the 2-3 zone. "Teams don't have that long to adjust in the playoffs," said Lippi. This makes it so much harder to prepare to play against the zone.
The strategy also allowed St. Joseph's to keep its big man and star player Temidayo Yussuf close to the basket at all times, mentioned Lippi. The Long Beach State-bound Yussuf responded with a game-high 19 rebounds, 14 of them on the defensive boards.
Yussuf also had 16 points on the offensive end to go along with 3 assists and 3 blocked shots in a sterling all-around performance.
Sophomore Esteban Lozano also chipped in with 16 points for St. Joseph. Senior Joe Hamilton topped Central Catholic with 19.
These two teams met on December 19th with the Raiders winning 68-52. It is clear how much the Pilots have improved since then. After a devastating loss on a 35-foot shot at the buzzer in the state finals last season, the Pilots are a team on a mission. "We've got to make up for last year," Lippi emphatically stated afterward.
Interestingly, Lippi noted that "we have a picture of that last shot (from last season) in our gym." He indicated the Pilots see it every day when they walk in the gym as a reminder.
Folks, word to the wise: don't bet against the Pilots…