Dragons rally from a 10-point deficit with a big third quarter, will play top seed Dublin for the title
PINOLE — Last week, after defeating No. 6 seed Dougherty Valley, Bishop O’Dowd coach Lou Richie remarked that his team’s true test would come when it fell behind.
On Wednesday, O’Dowd received that “true test” and passed with flying colors, climbing back from a 10-point deficit against No. 2 Salesian to win 79-66 and advance to the first North Coast Section Open Division final.
“That’s what we talked about yesterday. If we got down, how were we going to handle it?” Richie said. “How are we going to handle when we get punched in the mouth? Tonight, it looks like we did okay.”
One catalyst for the comeback was a shift in defensive strategy. Not only did O’Dowd switch from man-to-man to zone to mitigate the effectiveness of Salesian’s big men, but they also went to a press, which forced turnovers.
The strategy worked to perfection. In the first half, Salesian’s Demarshay Johnson Jr. and Te’Jon Sawyer, listed at 6-foot-9 and 6-8, respectively, combined for 10 points and 10 rebounds. In the second half, they were limited to two points and five rebounds.
Shane Bell stepped up in the second half as O’Dowd worked to minimize Johnson Jr and Sawyer, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the latter portion of the game. But Bell was the only Pride player who got it cooking as the rest of his teammates combined for 10 points in the second half.
“We couldn’t stop them in a half-court set,” Richie said. “We memorized all their plays and it didn’t matter. We had to try to speed them up and take them out of running their man sets and go zone. We were fortunate to get some turnovers and we were fortunate to make some big plays.”
The other catalyst for O’Dowd was Austin Ronzone off the bench, who poured in 12 of his 16 total points in the third quarter. Ronzone knocked down three three-pointers in the period, the last being a miraculous buzzer-beater at the end of the quarter that hit nothing but net.
O’Dowd entered the second half down 39-32, but the combination of the defensive pressure and Ronzone’s hot hand ignited a 26-9 frame that allowed the Dragons to take the lead for good.
Richie speculated that the presence of Tony Ronzone, Austin’s father and a member of the Dallas Mavericks’ front office, may have had something to do with his magical third period.
“Anytime Tony comes to town, you know his kids are going to play at a very high level,” Richie said. “You couldn’t be happier for a happier kid and family for him to play the way he did.”
Along with Austin, Ryzon Norris and Taj Phillips were a pair of steadying forces for O’Dowd, calming the waters despite the big deficit. Norris finished with 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals and Phillips totaled eight points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Monty Bowser, a Cal commit, didn’t have an earth-shattering night, putting up 11 points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal, but Richie went out of his way to complement how his star performed as a leader.
“You can’t say enough about Monty Bowser. He was an incredible teammate tonight, cheering his team on,” Richie said.
With the win, O’Dowd will play No. 1 seed Dublin, which defeated No. 4 Campolindo 64-55 on Wednesday, for the championship.
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