Pride’s Lazo gets crucial blocked shot as time expires
Death. Taxes. And Salesian High boys basketball winning a league title. No matter the effort, it seems there are some things that can’t be avoided.
Although St. Patrick-St. Vincent gave it everything it had on Tuesday night, the Bruins came up just a little short of upsetting their rival at the Bruin’s Lair in a 53-50 decision.
St. Pat’s had a chance to tie the game in the final eight seconds, but the Pride’s Jaden Lazo blocked a 3-point attempt by Esai Contreras as time expired to secure the Tri-County Athletic League Rock Division crown.
The win for Salesian (20-5, 9-0) gave the program its 13th straight league title, going back to when the Pride and Bruins both played in the Bay Shore Athletic League. The last time Salesian didn’t win at least a share of the title was in 2007-08 when St. Mary’s went undefeated in the BSAL.
The Pride came into the game ranked No. 17 in the state and No. 1 in the North Coast Section by maxpreps.com.
St. Pat’s head coach Derek Walker tipped his cap to the Pride and their head coach Bill Mellis.
“You have to give Salesian credit,” Walker said. “They made the plays late in the game. We came up a little short. We learn from it.”
Last month St. Pat’s (16-9, 7-2) walked into halftime with a lead at Salesian, but were outscored by 30 in the second half of an eventual loss. The Bruins played much better in the second half in the rematch, but that was something Mellis expected.
“We expected it to be close. It’s always close here, it’s always a tough place to play,” Mellis said. “We’ve had a string of seven games in the last 13 days and so I was little worried about fatigue, but we had a couple weekends in there so we were fine. But in those games we had a tough road game at St. Mary’s and then went to play the No. 3 team in the country (Centennial) and played pretty well. I felt those games helped prepare us.
“I mean, this game could have gone either way,” Mellis continued. “A couple stops here or there. They are a great team and we’re glad to get out of here with a win.”
The Bruins were pumped up right from the opening tipoff in the game played front of a packed gym. The crowd got a little loud when senior Dishon Jackson had a nice post move for a dunk to make it 6-5 and the crowd increased the volume even more when Jackson had a blocked shot followed by a layup at the other end to make it 8-5. Jackson finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
The Pride trailed by just two points at the end of the first quarter as Tyler Brinkman hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to make it 14-12 St. Pat’s.
St. Pat’s went on a 6-2 run to begin the third quarter thanks to a put back by Jaden Alexander, a floater in the lane by Jalen Scott and a layup from Alyas Vigil. Alexander was a force all night, scoring a team-high 17 points to go with 11 boards.
“He was attacking. Jaden Alexander played how Jaden Alexander usually plays, getting to the basket and being an athlete,” Walker said. “He played fine.”
Salesian fought back and eventually went on a 6-0 run in the quarter thanks to back-to-back three-point plays from Lazo and Te’Jon Sawyer. Sawyer’s free throw gave the Pride the lead at 24-23, but the Bruins responded well with a 6-0 run of their own and led 29-26 at the half.
The Bruins made sure not to repeat themselves as their second half effort against the Pride was much better at home. St. Pat’s went on a 5-0 run near the end of the period, but Salesian’s Shane Bell started to heat up. He had six points in the third, including the last four of the period, one of which was a dunk coming off his own steal.
With the game tied at 40-all entering the fourth quarter, the gym began to get even louder with anticipation. St. Pat’s tied the game at 44-all after Contreras made a nice pass in the lane to get Alexander a layup. Salesian scored the next four points, the latter two coming on a Bell dunk, and Salesian led 48-44 with about two minutes left.
Still, St. Pat’s showed absolutely no quit and fought back to pull within a basket at 52-50 with 21 seconds left after Scott drove the lane for a layup. Sawyer made one free throw for the Pride with eight seconds left, giving St. Pat’s one final shot to tie it.
Sadly for the Bruins, the Pride’s Lazo was ready on defense and came up with a big play to get the win.
“When we need a 3, and they know we need a 3, it’s kind of hard to get something up,” Walker said. “We set something set up, but they played good defense there. Once again, you have to give Salesian all the credit there.”
Mellis talked about what it was like to win another league title following the victory.
“Well last year we had such a great run. You’re just not going to match a 31-1 record,” Mellis said. “With new players it’s hard to come back and continue what we’re doing. So it’s special and testament to the hard work they’ve put in.”
St. Pat’s will start the TCAL playoffs next week.
“I tell my team after this game to keep their heads up,” Walker said. “It was nothing about our effort. It was about making plays. Everybody tried hard. But winning and losing comes down to making plays, especially in the final few minutes.”
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