De La Salle senior Leo Ricketts (L) and sophomore Ibrahim Monawar came up big in the Spartans upset of Centennial at the NorCal Tip-Off Classic
Harold Abend/Prep2Prep

De La Salle and Branson get key wins at NorCal Tip-Off Classic

November 27, 2023

DUBLIN, Calif. – The marquee game of the 16th Annual NorCal Tip-Off Classic at Dublin High last Saturday, presented by veteran event director Gerry Freitas, pitted two schools that have played each other three times in state CIF Open Division Bowl Game football championships with De La Salle-Concord winning all three.

On the gridiron the Spartans were favored all three times, however on the hardwood it was three-time defending CIF Southern Section Open Division champion Centennial that came in at No. 6 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason rankings and the Spartans were the No. 13 ranked team.

None of that really mattered once it came time for tip-off after De La Salle (1-0) delighted the large crowd of Northern California boys basketball fans by delivering a 62-51 upset victory over Centennial in a game they only trailed 3-0 and 3-2 early on before taking charge and maintaining a lead, albeit slim at times, to the final buzzer.

Leo Ricketts, a 6-0, senior point guard with mid-major interest that could be growing, shot the lights out and finished with 21 points on 5-of-8 on three pointers and 7-of-11 overall from the field. Ibrahim Monawar, a 6-2 sophomore guard, was just as hot. He had a game-high 22 points on 4-of-7 from outside the arc and 9-of 13 overall. In a first half that saw De La Salle take a 30-19 lead, the duo was 5-of-6 on three-pointers and 8-of-10 overall from the field. The pair also finished with 11 rebounds combined.

This wasn’t the first time Ricketts came up big in an upset win. Last year as a junior at the De La Salle Martin Luther King Jr. Classic, Ricketts came off the bench to hit some key three-pointers and had a team-high 17 points four three-pointers) in an upset of West Linn of Oregon, at the time the nation’s top team.

“We’ve played great teams before, and we knew how good a team Centennial is, but we think we’re one of those great teams too,” said Ricketts. “We have so much belief in ourselves. We think we can play with anyone and we came in tonight with a mindset that we would win.”

It wasn’t just Ricketts and Monawar. High D1 prospect and two-sport star (baseball) Alec Blair didn’t have his best game, but the 6-6 senior made come contributions at the right time and finished with seven points and five rebounds with two assists. Junior transfer Braddock Kjellesvig, a 6-6 solidly built power forward, gave the Spartans some solid minutes, hit all three of his shots for six points, he added seven rebounds, and contributed to a defense that held the high-powered Centennial offense pretty much in check. Senior Arshawn Salki came off the bench to dish out five assists.

“We take a lot of pride in our defense and we believe in our defense and Coach (Marcus) Schroeder’s defensive schemes,” Ricketts remarked.

Centennial got a double-double 18 points and 10 rebounds from 6-8 Arizona-committed senior Carter Bryant, but some veteran analysts felt he could have done even more. Eric Freeny, a 6-4 UCLA-committed senior guard, played well and added 14 points and five rebounds, but between the two they only had one assist and shot 12-of 28 from the field and 2-of-seven on three-pointers, combined.

De La Salle had 13 assists to five for Centennial, and the Spartans had a 29-24 rebounding advantage as well.

Centennial came out strong in the second half and cut the margin to 42-35 after three quarters. The Huskies cut it to 46-45 around midway through the fourth, but Kjellesvig got inside and muscled one home and Monawar ad Ricketts hit back-to-back three-pointers as the crowd roared. Bryant scored to make it 54-45, but De La Salle outscored Centennial 8-2 from there on to seal the win.

While this was the first game for teams from Northern California, teams from the CIF Southern Section in particular have had already played as many as three games coming into the Tip-Off Classic.

That was the case with Southern Section power Centennial. After starting 2-0 against SoCal opponents Centennial (2-2) has now lost two straight after a close 65-62 loss to national top 50 and Arizona No. 2 Sunnyslope-Phoenix.

Meanwhile De La Salle kicks off its season in high style and will now be in a position to be a threat as the top team in Northern California to start the season.

Branson outlasts Mitty in match-up of intersectional state-ranked powers

Branson-Ross has had a history of being a small school power, however in this age of competitive equity the Bulls are a Northern California heavyweight regardless of enrollment.

That status was solidified after the Cal-Hi Sports preseason No. 16 and NorCal No. 4 ranked Bulls, the two-time defending CIF North Coast Champions, showed why they will be a potential Open Division challenger after a 65-58 victory in the second marquee-type game over Cal-Hi Sports preseason No. 21 Archbishop Mitty-San Jose.

Branson (1-0) produced a solid team effort but it was the backcourt duo of Illinois-bound 6-4 senior Jase Butler and slick 6-2 junior Semetri Carr.

There was little doubt from analysts like Ronnie Flores of BallIsLife/Cal-Hi Sports and Frank Burlison of Burlison on Basketball that the pair are the one of if not the top backcourt combination in the state and for sure in Northern California.

The Monarchs just could not handle Butler as he nearly outscored Mitty himself in the first half with 18 points as the Bulls had a 35-20 lead they built with an 11-0 run after leading 13-11 late in the first quarter.

Butler finished with a double-double 23 points (2-of-3 on three pointers) and 10 rebounds with five assists. Carr added 16 points (4-of-8 on three-pointers) and seven rebounds with three steals. Branson also got a solid effort from 6-6 senior forward Finley Keefe after he finished with 14 points and four rebounds.

Trailing 51-43 after three quarters Mitty closed it to 51-47 but that was as close as they would get.

Mitty (0-1) used a second half strategy of trying to force the ball inside to Gavin Ripp, and although the 6-7 University of San Diego-committed senior had 10 of his team-high 16 points and six of his nine rebounds after halftime, it did not produce a victory.

UC-Riverside-committed senior Tyler Jones hit double-figure scoring for Mitty with 15 points as did senior Nathan Noronha with 13 points.

Other games

San Ramon Valley-Danville 70, Capital Christian-Sacramento 56

In the season opener for both clubs, San Ramon Valley slowly pulled away from Capital Christian-Sacramento in a 70-56 victory, as they led after each period in a game that was never in doubt.

Eight different players scored for Cal-Hi Sports preseason No. 26 San Ramon, including four in double-digits, for San Ramon Valley, led by standout junior guard Luke Isaak with 21 points and five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Elliot Conley, a 6-3 junior, also played well and finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. Senior Matthew Diekmann added 12 points and senior Seamus Deely had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Capital Christian got within 10 points early in the fourth period, but could get no closer. Junior guard Jaylen Valdez led the Cougars with 18 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Sophomore Myles Wiggins added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

St. Ignatius-San Francisco 63, Dublin 54

The host Gaels were seemingly in control of the game, until the Wildcats came alive in the fourth quarter and tied the game at 45-45 after St. Ignatius (1-0) took an early 3-0 lead. Dublin led 28-17 at halftime, but the Wildcats took a 49-47 lead with 4:20 to go on a lay-up. They proceeded to outscore Dublin, 25-9, in the fourth quarter after trailing 45-38 at the end of the third period and by as many as 14 points in the second quarter.

Vince Crisp hit a 3-pointer with 2:30 remaining to give St. Ignatius a 54-49 lead and it didn’t look back from there. Crisp, a 6-4 junior, finished with 22 points, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers, and three steals. Raymond Whitley, a 6-3 sophomore guard, added 23 points.

Jalen Stokes, a 6-5 junior, led Dublin (0-0) with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

Roosevelt-Eastvale 77, Archbishop Riordan-San Francisco 72

Clovis West-Fresno 78, Vanden-Fairfield 64

Weston Ranch-Stockton 85, Bakersfield Christian 72

Lincoln-Stockton 73, Ygnacio Valley-Concord 60

Head-Royce 68, Bellarmine-San Jose 49

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