SAN JOSE — As detailed as Piedmont Hills head coach Anthony Cuellar’s gameplans can be, he kept things simple on Tuesday night: Just get the ball to Alijah Washington.
The senior did it all for the Pirates on Tuesday night, scoring a game-high 33 points, including the go-ahead basket inside the final two minutes as Piedmont Hills rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit for a 59-57 win over Menlo-Atherton in the CCS Division I Quarterfinals.
“He refused to lose,” Cuellar said. “There’s no other way to put it. When he’s like that, it’s hard to beat us.”
Trailing by 13 in the third, the Pirates got 13 of Washington’s 33 over a seven-minute span to go into the fourth trailing just 46-45, then turned to him repeatedly throughout a back-and-forth final period. His drive gave Piedmont Hills (16-5) a 54-53 lead with 90 seconds left, and after the Bears missed an open corner three that would have put them back on top, Washington scored off a Richard Corona inbound pass for his final points of the night.
Seventh-seeded Menlo-Atherton (5-7) still had two golden opportunities in the final 30 seconds. A’Marion McCoy’s deep 3-pointer to tie went halfway down before rattling out. After Ricky Martin grabbed the offensive rebound and made one of two free throws with 20.4 seconds left, McCoy picked Washington’s pocket in the backcourt but couldn’t get the game-tying layup to fall.
Mykiah Wyche went to the line with 6.5 seconds on the clock, and with M-A out of timeouts, his two free throws effectively ended the game and rendered a last-second McCoy putback meaningless.
“I had a goal before the game to make all my free throws,” said Wyche, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. “Unfortunately, I missed one, but it came down to those two.”
Having missed much of his career to a laundry list of injuries that forced him to undergo three surgeries, Wyche is making the most of his opportunities and will have another chance to take the court on Thursday when the Pirates host third-seeded Santa Clara (12-3).
Six of Wyche’s points came in a second quarter where hardly anything else went right for Piedmont Hills. His open 3-pointer from the wing cut the M-A lead to 27-22, but the Bears finished the half on a 9-3 run to cap off a quarter in which they outscored the second-seeded Pirates 22-12.
Martin’s layup to open the third put the guests up 38-25, but Washington scored 13 in a quarter that Piedmont Hills won 20-10, including a pair of and-1s to cut the lead to seven with 4:41 left in the quarter. Wyche followed with a putback, and Jordan Martinez hit his lone 3-pointer of the night off a Washington assist in transition to cut the lead to 44-43.
“If he’s taken away, then it just opens things up for everyone to lead,” Wyche said of Martinez, whose catch-and-shoot opportunities were few and far between against a stingy M-A defense.
John Sepulveda’s putback midway through the fourth gave the Pirates their first lead since the opening quarter, and Washington answered baskets by both McCoy and Cadigan to put the hosts back on top. The Pirates entered the final two minutes of the game with four timeouts and took full advantage of them, with the inbound play from Corona to Washington being set up during one of them while Cuellar used the others to manage the game around Wyche’s free throws. Had he made one, Piedmont Hills would have fouled up by three. Wyche sank both, and the players were simply instructed to stand still as the Bears had no means of stopping the clock themselves.
Corona finished with seven points and 11 rebounds, including an early 3-pointer to open up a 9-2 lead and force Bears head coach Mike Molieri to burn an early timeout. A Corona assist to Washington made it a nine-point lead, but the visitors finished the quarter on a 12-2 run, taking their first lead on a Douglas Adams III 3-pointer just shy of the horn. That lead grew to double digits in the second behind seven points from Ryan Anderson off the bench and a pair of threes by Spencer Lin, the latter of which gave M-A a 34-23 advantage. The M.I.T.-bound Lin, a three-year varsity player and two-year starter, scored 17 in his final game in a Bears uniform.
“I take everything as a positive. It’s always been an extra this year,” Molieri said. “We played everybody, and that’s what I’ve done from day one.”
McCoy scored 12 and pulled down eight rebounds, while Martin finished with seven points and eight boards. Cadigan, one of seven juniors on the roster, scored eight, including the basket that gave the Bears their final lead off a slick assist from McCoy. Still, it wasn’t enough to outdo Washington.
“He just took over. He’s a stud,” Molieri said. “We had no answer for him.”
No. 8 Homestead 59, No. 1 Independence 50
SCVAL coaches believed that their league’s teams were underseeded, and those beliefs were reinforced on Tuesday night as the Mustangs knocked off the top-seeded 76ers. Independence (13-2) allowed just 10 points to Danny Brathwaite after the senior scored 30 in Saturday’s win over Los Altos, but Homestead (12-8) won behind balanced scoring. Patrick Yeh led the Mustangs with 14, Brian Sathy scored nine and Connor Kane finished with eight. Tobey Flores scored a game-high 20 for the hosts, Andre Cahiga finished with 12 and Alex Perez chipped in eight.
No. 5 Mountain View 59, No. 4 Silver Creek 49
A 23-11 third quarter fueled the Spartans to a road quarterfinal victory, with Joey Peir hitting two 3-pointers in the decisive period. Yuval Hod scored 18 to lead Mountain View (13-5) and Ryan Bahar added 13.
No. 3 Santa Clara 48, No. 6 Palo Alto 43
After being swept by the Vikings in the regular season, Santa Clara (12-3) got revenge when it mattered most. Ralph Torda scored 16 points to lead the Bruins and Harry Nauci added 12 for a Bruins team that had been held to 35 and 28 points in two regular season meetings with Palo Alto (11-9). The hosts scored the first 10 points and never trailed, scoring 11 of their 26 first-half points on turnovers. Aidan Rausch scored a game-high 20 for the Vikings, who had won three of the prior four Division I titles. 2018 was the lone year in which they didn’t, and in that season, they became the first public school to reach the Open Division semifinals.
No. 3 Santa Clara (12-3) @ No. 2 Piedmont Hills (16-5), 7 p.m.
No. 8 Homestead (13-8) @ No. 5 Mountain View (13-5), 7 p.m.