RICHMOND, Calif. – Jeremiah Jones’s senior year has been shortened like all the other seniors. But he’s already made a very memorable stamp on the season as a terrific sequence in the final seconds lifted the Salesian Pride to a 69-67 victory versus Bishop O’Dowd on Saturday night.
Before a home crowd of virtually none due to COVID, Salesian (3-2) had an 18-12 lead after one and had as much as a 12-point lead in the third, but each time Bishop O’Dowd (1-2) bounced back. A series of Dragons steals and Salesian turnovers, coupled with a technical foul and perfect free-throw shooting from Jalen Lewis spurred an intense run by Bishop O’Dowd, giving the visitors a 65-64 lead with 3:22 remaining. In the next couple minutes, Salesian hit just 1-of-6 free throws, but a Dante Sawyer layup off a Logan Coverson pass and stingy defense resulted in a 67-65 lead for the Pride with 42 seconds to go.
O’Dowd dwindled the clock down, and Lewis, who led all scorers with 25 points, nailed a pretty fadeaway just outside the key with 16 seconds left. Jones received the ensuing inbounds pass, and after walking it partly up the floor, suddenly sprinted towards the hoop and banked in a layup just beyond the reach of his defender with 2.5 seconds showing on the clock. The Dragons immediately inbounded but the pass was wide, thanks in part to Jones’s defensive pressure. That gave Salesian the ball on the baseline, and Jones was there again, leaping to catch a long inbounds pass and in the same motion pass it to a teammate as time expired.
“I saw that everyone went down the court and it was just one-on-one,” Jones remarked about the winning play. “I just basically felt I could take this. The coach gave me that look, ‘Take him if you can.’ I took a spin and the lane was open, so I took it all the way to the basket. It was great defense but it was a little bit open.”
The first quarter went quickly, but thereafter the game was marked by many foul calls. The teams shot a combined 35 free throws in the second half.
Freshman Amani Johnson led Salesian with 15 points and four assists, while Jones had 12 and Sawyer added 12 points with four steals. The Pride sank five three-pointers in the third and three treys in the first, but none in the other two quarters.
“After a couple timeouts, we kind of settled down,” Salesian coach Bill Mellis said. “It was a sloppy game, I’m sure they would say the same thing. We just ended up with one or two more plays than we did.”
“Twenty-seven turnovers, we couldn’t defend them in the half court,” Bishop O’Dowd coach Lou Richie said. “It didn’t come down to that one play.”
Lewis tacked on nine rebounds and five blocked shots to his 25-point total. He finished 10-of-11 on free throws. Marsalis Roberson was the only other Dragon in double figures, scoring 15 to pair with nine boards. Bishop O’Dowd played without point guard Taj Phillips, who sat out due to an ankle injury.
Of course a nearly empty though by no means quiet gym led coaches and players to reflect.
“To have a whole group come in and really have no summer to work with them, and no fall conditioning, it’s been tough, it’s been weird,” Mellis said. “Our freshmen are barely scratching the surface of what we do. Out there they’re just trying to make things happen and Amani’s been a big part of that.”
“We’ve had three games and two practices,” Richie said. “Kids are playing, that’s what it’s all about. The fact that they have that opportunity, we need to celebrate that. Every player has done something.”
“It has been a little struggle getting used to the system but I’m blessed that our state and our county has given us the opportunity to play," said Jones. "So I’m really grateful for that."