The Vincent Memorial Catholic boys’ basketball team and others from the school gather for a photo after the Scots’ CIF-San Diego Section Division V championship loss at Serra High School in San Diego. The Scots lost to Crawford, 62-58, in overtime on Thursday, June 10. | COURTESY PHOTO
SAN DIEGO — The clock finally struck midnight on Cinderella’s magical run.
The Vincent Memorial Catholic High boys’ basketball team was looking for its third straight upset in the playoffs on Thursday, June 10, but the Scots dropped a 62-58 overtime thriller to Crawford High of San Diego in the CIF-San Diego Section Division V championship game at Serra High School.
En route to the championship game, eighth-seeded Vincent Memorial disposed of top-ranked Liberty Charter of Lemon Grove, 63-55, in the quarterfinals, then beat fourth-ranked St. Joseph Academy of San Marcos, 49-39, in the semifinals, sending the Scots to the title game where the second-ranked Crawford Colts were waiting.
“Even though we came up short tonight, I’m very happy with how the season progressed and how it ended up,” said Hector Vildosola, Vincent Memorial’s first-year head coach. “The kids kept getting better and better each time they took the court.”
Thursday’s championship game had a little bit of everything, from momentum-swinging shots to nervous players on the free-throw line late in the game to buzzer beaters.
The game looked like it might be a blowout early as Crawford built a 10-0 lead through the first five-plus minutes, exposing the nerves and inexperience of the Scots. It wasn’t until 2:28 left in the opening period that freshman guard Pancho Perez Tejada broke the seal with a follow-up basket and a free throw to put the Scots on the board.
After the first period, Vincent Memorial found itself down 10-5, but was still in the game thanks to a pestering defense that got to every loose ball.
“That first quarter we were just a little too nervous honestly,” said Vincent Memorial senior Jose Iturribarria. “But we kept our heads up and didn’t let the bad start keep us down. We were still fighting for every ball and trying to make plays.”
The Scots opened the second quarter on an 18-5 run over seven minutes to build a 23-15 lead. Tejada led the surge with five of the 18 points and Landon Blaisdell had four points in the run.
Crawford answered back with six points in the final 32 seconds of the half to cut the lead to 23-21, but Vincent Memorial stole the momentum back at the end of the half with a three-pointer from Tejada as the buzzer sounded to put the Scots ahead 26-21 going into the locker rooms.
“We got through the nervous stage early on,” Vildosola said. “At halftime we talked about keeping our energy level up and running our offense. And I told them to be ready for the press because we knew it was coming.”
Vincent Memorial built a 28-21 lead early in the third quarter, but the Colts responded with a 10-0 run of their own to take a 31-28 lead with 3:51 left in the period. The two teams traded baskets until the end of the quarter that finished with Crawford ahead 37-36.
The Colts used a 13-6 run in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to take a 50-42 lead with 4:30 left in the game. Crawford’s Abdullahi Ismail was the spark for the run, scoring nine straight points and playing lock-down defense on the Vincent Memorial guards.
“We started the fourth quarter slow and they took advantage and we found ourselves down by eight,” Iturribarria said. “We were happy we were able to come back and send it to overtime.”
The Scots rallied late in the fourth quarter and tied the game with 16 seconds left on a Blaisdell three-pointer. Vincent Memorial had a shot to win the game after Crawford was called for a five-second violation when trying to inbound the ball.
With 13 seconds left, the Scots got the ball in the hands of Tejada who was able to get up a 14-foot, off-balanced shot but wasn’t able to knock down the potential game-winner.
In the four-minute overtime, Crawford’s Ryan Juarez opened the scoring with a three-pointer, but two drives and layups from Vincent Memorial’s Iturribarria gave the Scots a short-lived 58-57 lead with 2:23 left.
“As a senior I wanted to take over in the overtime,” said Iturribarria, who finished with 14 points, including four in overtime.
Yahye Abdurhaman hit a huge three-pointer for the Colts with 1:59 left in overtime to put Crawford ahead 60-58. Some missed opportunities by the Scots in the final two minutes forced them to play the fouling game and stop the clock in the final minute. Crawford was able to hit two-of-six free throws in the final 1:12 of overtime to increase the lead to 62-58.
“It was a short season but I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” Iturribarria said. “Nobody expected us to do anything and here we were playing in the championship game.”
Gabriel Martinez led Vincent Memorial with 15 points, followed by Tejada with 13 and Blaisdell with 12. Ismail led the Colts with 16, followed by Juarez with 14 and Yusuf Abdurhaman with 13.