Sophomore star Aidan Mahaney erupts in second half to lead Campolindo to championship game
ALBANY — It may have taken several years, but Campolindo finally got its revenge.
The seventh-seeded boys basketball team in the NorCal Division I bracket finally got a monkey off its back, upsetting No. 3 Salesian 60-59 in Saturday’s semifinal after falling to the Pride in three consecutive North Coast Section Division III title games.
“It feels awesome. It still hasn’t really sunk in,” Campolindo coach Steven Dyer said. “Salesian is an unbelievable program, one we aspire to be.”
The reasons for Campolindo’s upset begin and end with Aidan Mahaney, who turned out a masterful performance in the clutch.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore finished with 29 points — 24 of which came in the second half and 15 in the fourth quarter — as he willed the Cougars to a win. The guard connected on five 3-pointers, while adding four rebounds and three assists.
“I challenged him at halftime,” Dyer said. “Great player can’t go out this way because I thought he had a really poor first half. Stepped up in the second half, made a bunch of shots.”
It wasn’t just the fact that Mahaney was hitting shots, but their degree of difficulty as well. One such bucket came with about two minutes remaining in regulation when Mahoney drove left, stopped, pump-faked at the left elbow to get two Salesian defenders in the air, then elevated to hit the mid-range shot.
Mahaney’s iciest shot came with 1:06 remaining in the fourth. As Campolindo clung to a 57-55 lead, Mahaney drove right, shifted left, navigated around a screen, then drilled a trey from several feet beyond the arc, nothing but net.
“I’d be a stupid coach if I tried to not let him take a lot of shots,” Dyer said. “He’s a great player for a reason.”
Campolindo entered the halftime break down 31-23 after trailing by double digits in the first half. There were times when a blowout looked apparent as Salesian flexed its overpowering athleticism, but Campolindo ripped off a 13-5 run to begin the second half to tie things up, firmly announcing it wouldn’t surrender.
Behind Mahaney’s 15 fourth-quarter points, the Cougars kept the game close before going for the dagger. With about three minutes left, Emmanuel Callas, who finished with nine points, hit a go-ahead layup, giving the Cougars a 53-51 lead and putting them up for good.
“Just credit to our guys,” Dyer said. “We got winners in that locker room.”
In their final games with the Pride, Te’Jon Sawyer finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Shane Bell, who scored his 1,000th-career point on Wednesday against Grant, added 12 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“I’m thankful that we don’t have to play (Sawyer) anymore since he’s a senior,” Dyer said. “He’s a great player. We changed up some of our coverages from the first game a little bit. It threw him off a little bit, but I don’t know how many points he had. It seems like he had 20 points.”
Campolindo, last year’s Division II state champion, won’t know if it will face either No. 1 Archbishop Riordan or No. 4 De La Salle in Tuesday’s NorCal Division I championship game. That semifinal got postponed after a coronavirus scare.
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