SUNNYVALE, Calif. — It’s only fitting that Noah Short’s final time in a King’s Academy uniform will be in a championship game.
One of the most accomplished athletes in school history, Short, best known for his prowess on the football field, scored 31 on Thursday night as King’s Academy beat Menlo 67-53 in the CCS Division IV semifinals to advance to the program’s first championship game.
“King’s is my home no matter where I go,” said Short, who plans to play football at Army. “I wanna bring it home for the whole community.”
Short’s pair of free throws with 30 seconds left in the third quarter put second-seeded King’s Academy (8-4) ahead for good after Menlo had erased a nine-point deficit. He took an inbound pass to hit the last of his four 3-pointers, sparking the decisive 17-2 run that spanned most of the fourth quarter and sent the program into uncharted waters.
“I knew we’d be okay, but I was lying if I said I was expecting a section championship appearance,” said first-year TKA head coach Cameron Bradford.
Short’s basket off the last of Antonio Gonzalez’s six assists made it 60-48 with just under four minutes left and effectively squashed any chances of a late surge from third-seeded Menlo (7-10).
He finished off his night with a play befitting of his hustle, rebounding his own missed free throw and scoring for the last of his 31 points before retreating to the bench for the final 47.6 seconds, the only time he came out of the game. Until the final minute, the TKA starting five stayed on the court, save for a pair of brief cameos from sophomore David Smith off the bench.
“At this point, they’re running on straight adrenaline,” Bradford said of his team’s stamina.
For a stretch in the third quarter, it looked like the more well-rested visitors would take over. Menlo went into the half trailing by five and would have pulled ahead if not for a pair of threes by junior forward Joseph Cheng, his only baskets of the game.
“We’re built around Noah, but each of us can play our part, and today we really showed that,” Cheng said.
Every member of the starting five had their moments, with Cheng hitting his two threes midway through the third, sophomore point guard Jon Taylor scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, Joshua Cooper scoring on a drive during the 17-2 run and Gonzalez racking up 11 points and eight rebounds.
Even with the threes by Cheng, Menlo managed to tie it at 41 on a basket by Chris Cook and take a 43-42 lead late in the third on a pair of free throws by Lucas Vogel, who scored a game-high 16. Vogel is one of two sophomores in the starting lineup and one of eight on the roster.
“They all got a little drink of water,” Menlo head coach Keith Larsen said of his young roster.
Cook, who scored 11 of his 13 in the second half and dished out six assists, scored off a feed from Hunter Riley, the only other senior on the roster, to cut the lead to 53-48, but it was the last hurrah for the visitors as King’s Academy scored the next 10 to put the game away, with Taylor knocking down a pair of threes.
Short started the game on fire, knocking down a trio of threes in a 13-point first quarter where Gonzalez dished out three assists. Vogel nearly matched him, scoring nine in the frame. The hosts opened up a nine-point lead in the second when Short made one of two free throws with 2:49 left, but Vogel closed the half on a personal 6-2 run to cut the lead to 31-26 going into the break.
“He’s a really good player,” Larsen said of Short. “We lost sight of him a couple times. It’s when you lose a little concentration and then he makes other people better. ”
Those sequences led to the back-to-back threes by Cheng and the eight late points from Taylor, 14 critical points in a game the hosts won by 14.
No. 1 Sacred Heart Prep 90, No. 4 Scotts Valley 48
Aidan Braccia set a new career-high with 34 points, knocking down eight 3-pointers as Sacred Heart Prep (14-7) scored 26 points in the second quarter to take a 19-point halftime lead and cruised to a second straight blowout win. Harrison Carrington scored 22 for the Gators, who outscored the Falcons 33-13 in the third quarter to take a 79-40 lead into the final period, which was completed with a running clock. Scotts Valley (10-9) got 15 points from Kaleb Miller and 13 from fellow senior Jack Fletcher.