CONCORD, Calif. — With five Northern California championships, the University Red Devils are no strangers to success, but Monday afternoon marked one of the biggest regular season wins in program history.
A team that has never shied away from top competition and has always fought well against blue bloods but rarely made it over the hump finally notched a huge win over a big name at the 24th De La Salle Martin Luther King Jr. Classic, overcoming a 14-point halftime deficit for a 61-52 win over Bishop O’Dowd.
“This is as big as it gets, frankly,” University head coach Randy Bessolo said. “We’re playing without Joey (Kennedy), we’re playing with a young team, and to come to this event where there are a lot of eyes on you and to be down 14 and not give up and fight back to win, I don’t think it can get any bigger than that.”
Having lost their 2021 season finale to the Dragons amidst a flurry of controversial calls, it looked like the undersized Red Devils were purely outmatched on Monday, trailing 9-0 less than three minutes in and 37-23 at halftime. As has been the case against other top opponents, such as Serra and King-Riverside, University (11-7) started to claw back, but unlike those prior games, didn’t run out of steam after getting within five.
“These guys were just tired of losing games like that,” Bessolo said. “One thing that’s been a constant, we play 32 minutes of tough basketball, and today we played tough basketball plus turned it up a notch.”
The Devils trailed 39-36 after opening the second half on a 13-2 run with back-to-back threes by Cole Boake and Luke Bradley. And after Bishop O’Dowd (4-5) scored on back-to-back baskets by Myles De Los Santos-Moore to restore a seven-point lead, Bradley and Gus Parsons connected from beyond the arc to cut the lead to one.
The Dragons went into the fourth up five on a De Los Santos-Moore baseline drive and Lloyd Burrows layup, then took a 49-42 lead on the last of Cameron Brown’s 12 points, but turned the ball over repeatedly after Brown fouled out with 6:29 left. Boake scored through contact with five minutes remaining to give the Red Devils their first lead at 50-49, and scored on an and-1 with 2:46 left for a three-point advantage, despite missing the ensuing free throw. His 3-pointer with two minutes remaining made it 55-50, and Bradley connected off a Grant Lyon assist on the following possession to extend the lead to eight.
“They’re a big program and they have a lot of great guys,” Bradley said of the Dragons after scoring all 10 of his points in the second half. “We’ve had a few tough losses recently and we really wanted to win this game.”
Bradley accounted for three of University’s 11 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Amos Hodgson’s shot from beyond the arc in the opening minute accounted for O’Dowd’s lone made 3-pointer. The Dragons opened up a quick 15-5 lead and held a 21-13 advantage after a quarter behind 6-foot-9 center Cahal Connolly, who scored all 14 of his points in the first half, going a perfect 8-for-8 at the free throw line. He also finished with 11 rebounds.
Boake, a sophomore, scored 20 to lead the Red Devils, who expect to have the 6-6 Kennedy return from a knee injury within the next two weeks. Jackson Boake, Cole’s older brother, left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Lyon, a commit to Division III Linfield, and Parsons scored eight apiece.
Moreau Catholic 57, Vanden 54
The first game of the 24th De La Salle Martin Luther King Jr. Classic began on an utterly bizarre note, with both the Vanden Vikings and Moreau Catholic Mariners showing up in black jerseys. After deliberation, the Mariners were deemed to have been the ones at fault as the designated “home team” and, after being loaned white practice jerseys, were assessed a technical foul to start the game.
The end result was a single point for the Vikings, who made one of the two free throws before the opening possession, and a confusing game where referees had to ask Moreau Catholic players to lift up their unmarked practice jerseys after each foul to display their jersey numbers.
Even without a number on his back, Moreau Catholic freshman Kellen Hampton stood out.
A 6-foot-6 freshman distinguished by the shooting sleeve on his right arm and his unmistakable composure and talent, Hampton scored 15 in a 57-54 victory over Vanden, including the clinching free throws with 15.9 seconds left.
“When he went to the line, we said, ‘we’re about to learn a lot about the rookie right now,’” Moreau Catholic head coach Frank Knight said. “Both shots didn’t even hit the rim. He’s gonna be legit. We tried to bring him on slowly because we didn’t want to put all the pressure on him as a freshman, but he’s ready.”
After Hampton’s free throws, Vanden (7-10) could only muster a Takai Emerson-Hardy putback with 0.2 seconds left. Emerson-Hardy, who holds an offer from Washington State, scored a game-high 26 points for the Vikings and collected 11 rebounds. He helped bring his team back from an early 26-11 deficit, scoring 10 in the second quarter to cut the Mariner lead to 32-26 at halftime.
Vanden drew even at 37 on a pair of free throws by sophomore Tyler Thompson with 2:38 left in the third and took the lead on a Thompson 3-pointer less than a minute later. Thompson, a guard who already stands at 6-foot-5 and will certainly draw Division I interest, scored 14.
Hampton re-tied the game at 40 with a pair of free throws shortly thereafter and scored off a James Bell offensive rebound to send Moreau Catholic (12-4) into the fourth up by two. Bell, the “glue guy” for the Mariners, scored just a single point but gathered six rebounds and four assists.
Vanden held one more short-lived lead early in the fourth after the second of Thompson’s three 3-pointers, but Owen Arnst, who didn’t see the court for the Mariners in the first half, hit consecutive threes to put his team up 50-45. Hampton’s 3-pointer off an inbound pass answered a a Sterling McClanahan three to make it 53-48 Mariners, but the Vikings trailed by just one with 3:12 left after the last of Thompson’s threes and a Mikey Johnson free throw.
Neither team scored again until LeBrie Goudy-Lee’s pair of free throws with 1:11 remaining, and Hampton rose to the occasion with 15.9 seconds left to seal the win.
“During the free throws, I told myself, ‘I’m that type of guy,’” Hampton said. “It’s definitely why I play basketball. I see people in the NBA doing that, and to do it feels good.
Trey Knight, the head coach’s son, scored 12 of his 17 in the first quarter to get the Mariners out to an early 24-11 lead. Goudy-Lee finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists, while McClanahan scored eight. Sophomore Ahsan Huff went scoreless for the Vikings but collected a game-high 13 rebounds.
Modesto Christian 67, Salesian 58
From an individual talent standpoint, the organizers of the 24th De La Salle Martin Luther King Jr. Classic saved the best for last.
Jamari Phillips showed why he’s ranked by ESPN as the No. 17 player in the Class of 2024, scoring a game-high 27 and gathering seven rebounds as his Modesto Christian Crusaders led wire-to-wire in a 67-58 win over Salesian.
“He’s 15 years old, but he doesn’t act like he’s 15,” Modesto Christian head coach Brice Fantazia said of Phillips, who ascended for a dunk and knocked down a trio of 3-pointers. “He loves the moment and he loves the big games. His parents taught him to not be scared of anything.”
Phillips demonstrated remarkable speed and jumping ability that could serve him not only on the basketball court, but perhaps as an Olympic sprinter or hurdler. With a roster limited by injuries to Darius Smith and Henoc Kabeya, Modesto Christian (15-1) used just seven players but never seemed to tire against a Salesian roster with length across the board and depth to account for the fatigue of playing for the first time in 27 days. The Crusader lead never reached more than 10 points, which only happened on two occasions, but MC was still able to hold off any potential Salesian charge.
Six-foot-10 Congolese junior Prince Oseya served as the X factor for the Crusaders, scoring all eight of his points in the second half and making all four of his free throws. His pair with 2:01 left in the third gave Modesto Christian a 45-35 lead, and he knocked down two more with 3:27 left to make it 58-50.
“He can really shoot,” Fantazia said of Oseya. “In our offense, he doesn’t need to shoot a ton, but on the drills we track in practice, he has great touch and shoots it very well from the free throw line.”
After Alvin Loving’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 45-38, Oseya threw down a two-handed dunk off a pass from fellow Congolese student Manasse Itete, who doubles as an offensive lineman on Modesto Christian’s football team.
Tyler Harris scored 20 for Salesian (4-5) behind a 12-for-14 performance at the free throw line, and his pair from the stripe with 5:37 left cut the lead to 51-48. Phillips hit junior guard BJ Davis for a 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to six, then hit a pair of free throws as part of his 8-of-11 effort at the line to make it an eight-point game again.
Harris made four free throws with 1:06 left to trim the lead to 62-56 when Davis got hit with both a common foul and a technical foul, but Alex Argandar found Phillips for a dunk and hit Davis on a full-court inbound pass to break the press and put the game away. Argandar had six points and a game-high four assists, while Davis finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Amani Johnson scored eight for the Pride, while Austin Johnson (no relation to Amani) and Chris Sanders each scored eight. Austin, a four-year varsity player, suffered an ankle sprain late in the game and is questionable for Thursday’s TCAL-Rock Division opener with St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
Campolindo 74, Valley Christian 32
The Campolindo Cougars struggled with zone defense in the early part of the season, mustering just 48 points in a win over Riordan at the Gridley Invitational.
Five weeks later, they matched that total against another WCAL opponent in the first half, draining 10 3-pointers in the first two quarters in a 74-32 win over Valley Christian at the 24th De La Salle Martin Luther King Jr. Classic.
“This is a group that’s been banged up, so we really haven’t had enough time to play with all our guys,” Saint Mary’s commit Aidan Mahaney said after scoring a game-high 18 points. “Everyone’s just getting more comfortable. I’ve been in and out for two years, so every day I play, I get better.”
Mahaney connected five times in the first half, with three in a 28-point first quarter. Valley Christian (7-6) trailed by just nine after Jacob Bannarbie’s ferocious one-handed dunk early in the second quarter, but Campolindo (12-1) closed the half with a 20-2 run, including the final 17 points after a long Bannarbie jumper.
A Cade Bennett 3-pointer extended the lead to 38-19, and the Cougars went up by 26 after back-to-back threes by Bennett and Mahaney. Bennett, whose father, Randy, will be coaching Mahaney starting in the fall, finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Shane O’Reilly dished out three of his four assists in the second quarter and finished with nine points and six rebounds.
The lead reached 40 on a Logan Robeson basket with 3:10 left in the third quarter, and the fourth was played with a running clock. Gabe Johnson, whose older brother, Logan, played at St. Francis and starts at point guard for Saint Mary’s, scored four in the final quarter.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Mahaney said of cheering on Johnson from the bench. “Those guys push it in practice every day. Gabe picks me up full court in every practice. We’re the best team in NorCal and the fourth-best team in the state. Our bench guys can play.”
Robeson, who returned from a hand injury last week, scored 12 off the bench. Bannarbie scored seven for the Warriors, but was benched midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. He also played just six minutes in Saturday’s win over Serra. Nico D’Augusta also scored seven for Valley Christian and Tzahari Trevino added six.
De La Salle 65, Capital Christian 54
From the opening possession, it was clear Monday was going to be John Flannigan’s night.
The 6-foot-9 forward knocked down a 3-pointer to start the game for host De La Salle at the Spartans’ own Martin Luther King Jr. Classic and scored a game-high 16 points in a 65-54 win over Capital Christian.
“The past few months, our coaches have made an emphasis to work on my 3-point shot,” said Flannigan, who hit another from outside in the third quarter. “I’ve had it for a while, but it’s been getting better.”
He scored 11 of his 16 in that third quarter to keep De La Salle (11-4) in front, with that second 3-pointer extending the lead to 41-31. The Spartans never trailed, but the lead was never larger than 10 points until Javon Johnson’s dagger 3-pointer with 1:56 left to put the home side up 60-48.
Nine different players scored for the Spartans, with five scoring at least seven points, but Flannigan was the constant presence on a night where many of his teammates battled foul trouble. Freshman guard Alec Blair picked up two in less than a minute in the first quarter and a third early in the third quarter, Johnny Semany had two by the midpoint of the second and backup guard Michael Boyle had three late in the third. With different players rotating in and out, Flannigan either made his impact by scoring or taking a Cougar big out of the play.
His third-chance putback with 58.1 left in the third quarter put the hosts up 51-42, and though he missed the free throw that followed, Capital Christian (9-8) was never closer than six points the rest of the way. The Cougars did trim the deficit to 53-47 early in the fourth on a Desmin Rushton 3-pointer, but Blair found Evan Wells for an open layup and the Spartans didn’t allow another point for the next three minutes, extending the lead back to 10 on a pair of Webster free throws.
Webster scored 14, going 7-for-7 at the line. Johnson finished with nine, while Semany scored eight and dished out four assists.
“He’s incredible. We’ve got a lot of guys who are really good, but I would consider him our heart and soul,” first-year De La Salle head coach Marcus Schroeder said of Semany. “He’s one of our best perimeter defenders. We felt it when we didn’t have him against Cal. I don’t know if I should or shouldn’t say that, but we could feel it when we didn’t have our guy that holds everything together. He embodies what this school is about, that toughness and loyalty.”
Semany, who was in COVID-19 protocols during a loss to California, helped ensure that no Cougar ever went on a significant run. Any time Capital Christian seemed to find some momentum, it was either Flannigan or Semany who made the next play, whether it was locking down a shooter, grabbing a rebound or scoring.
Johnson was also key, scoring on a long jumper as the first quarter buzzer sounded to put DLS up 14-11. When the Cougars closed to within one on two Kanye Clarke free throws early in the second, he answered with a three and Semany found Stephen Voorhees on an inbound pass to put the home side up by six. Then it was Webster’s turn, hitting a 3-pointer off a Johnson assist to extend the lead to 24-15. Webster scored half his points in the second, with a pull-up from the free throw line extending the lead to 28-18.
Anthony Garcia, who has an offer to play quarterback at San Jose State, led the visitors with 13 points. Clarke, who didn’t start but played more than half the game, scored 10, fellow reserve and Micah Hobson added eight. Isaiah Johnson scored seven; in all, 10 different players scored for the Cougars, who were just two days removed from a marquee win over Jesuit.