MORAGA - For the third straight year, Salesian took down Campolindo to capture the North Coast Section Division III boys basketball championship, holding off a gritty effort by the Cougars at Saint Mary's College on Saturday night to win 64-53, keeping the Pride unbeaten for the season.
“This one was special due to the run we’re having, 31-0, and we’re just trying to push deeper into the playoffs,” said Salesian junior Tyler Brinkman, a three-year varsity player who had 10 points in the game and has been part of all three section title games between the two teams.
Early on, it looked as if Salesian (31-0), the top-ranked team in the section and in the state, was going to pull away and turn the game into a rout. The Pride led 27-11 midway through the second quarter before standout Campolindo freshman Aidan Mahaney stopped the bleeding with a huge three-pointer, a shot which seemingly allowed the Cougars (22-7) to get their feet under them and stay in the game. Mahaney, who averaged over 15 points per game this season, poured in 23 points on the big stage for the DAL-Foothill champions.
Senior Jovon McClanahan, now a four-time section champion, refused to let the lead dwindle to single digits, as he controlled the pace and rhythm of the game. McClanahan and Jaden Lazo had 13 points each to lead a balanced effort for the Pride.
“Our main goal is to push the tempo, get out in the lanes, make layups, and take high percentage shots,” said McClanahan.
Salesian also held Campolindo senior David Ahazie to just 11 points, after he averaged nearly 19 points per game. Junior Carter Mahaney chipped in 10 points for the Cougars, who struggled to keep up in the post with Salesian, who out-rebounded Campolindo 31-15. Integral to that effort was Pride 6-foot-7 junior post Te'jon Sawyer, who had 12 points and six rebounds. Junior Shane Bell rounded out a quartet of Salesian players in double figures, scoring 12 points.
Both teams now advance to the CIF NorCal playoffs, where Salesian will undoubtedly be the top seed in the Open Division, while Campolindo is likely to end up in Division II, under the state's competitive equity structure.
“We just need to focus, lock in, play as a team, get our legs back, and get ready for this first team,” said Brinkman.
The seedings will be revealed on Sunday afternoon.
“Our team is very balanced, so if we keep sharing the ball and moving the ball we’ll be fine,” McClanahan added.