Stuart Hall players and fans celebrate the team's 51-50 win over Urban in the BCL West Championship Game.
Ethan Kassel

Eight-man Stuart Hall fights off Urban for BCL West title

February 17, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO — The Stuart Hall Knights entered the BCL West Tournament missing a starter to injury, suspended four more players for a violation of team rules after a semifinal win and came out of the whole thing as champions, defeating Urban 51-50 on Saturday night before a boisterous crowd at Kezar Pavilion.

With just eight players dressed, including a JV callup who had all of eight minutes of varsity experience entering the game starting at point guard, the Knights opened up a 13-point lead and held off the Blues in the final minutes to win their second straight league tournament title.

“Every kid who got on that floor tonight gave me everything they had,” head coach Charley Johnson said after the victory. “I really wanted that one, I think they sensed that, and they really wanted it too. I made a comment, if somehow we could pull it off it would be one of the best wins for us in a long time. Just insanely happy for the guys.”

Improbably, Stuart Hall (20-7) led for the entire second quarter to take a 28-25 halftime lead, then built on it with points on six straight possessions in the third, taking a 42-29 advantage on the heels of a 12-1 run before the Blues finally made their charge. Urban (18-10) got the final six points of the third and cut the lead to five as Ryan Pescherine scored high off the glass on the opening possession of the fourth. A Bryce Smith 3-pointer and Pescherine baseline jumper got the fourth-seeded Blues within one, but Zion DeBerry picked a perfect time for his lone basket, and after Smith made one of two free throws, Josh Puccinelli scored on a drive and Kyle Jasper, the lone regular playing for second-seeded Stuart Hall, scored what would turn out to be his team’s final field goal, making it a 50-44 game.

“I felt like I had to be a leader out there and really represent,” said Jasper, who scored a team-high 16 points. “We had a lot of guys step up, including some who don’t play much at all.”

A Smith floater and Jaydon Aquino Eurostep made it a two-point game, and after Jasper split a pair at the line, the teams would trade misses until Jasper dribbled off his own foot, giving the Blues the ball down three with 28 seconds left. Smith would come up empty on a drive, but Aquino managed to swipe the rebound from Jasper and score the last of his 10 points, which went along with nine rebounds and five assists. Urban would foul Luke Moore after an inbound, and though he’d miss the front end of a 1-and-1 with 10 seconds left, Jackson Jung, the JV callup with almost no prior experience, contested Smith’s shot in the lane, which hit the back of the rim and bounced away as time expired.

“I wasn’t worried about him in the slightest,” Johnson said of Jung, who scored seven points and made critical defensive plays all night, including on the final possession. “He’s a little baller.”

Jung’s 3-pointer during the 12-1 run in the third made it 37-28, a stretch in which Puccinelli scored four of his 10. He and Jung also hit back-to-back threes early in the second to take a 21-17 lead, one that The Hall would never relinquish. The only time Urban ever led was in the first quarter, using a 10-0 run to take a 15-11 lead. Puccinelli would hit a pair of free throws to stop the surge, and Ares Williams, normally at the end of the bench but forced into action, scored his lone basket of the game to answer a finish off the glass from Blues freshman center Siraj Saker.

Past Jasper, the next closest thing to a regular player was DeBerry, who had been sidelined last year with an Achilles injury and forced into a starting role earlier in the year when Max Buchioni broke a bone in his foot. He did get some minutes on Saturday, but his foot acted up again towards the end of the third, leaving DeBerry to handle things by himself, a year after being the injured one watching his teammates from the bench.

“It’s just a great feeling,” said the 6-foot-4 DeBerry, who dished out four assists and pulled down five rebounds. “Watching on the sidelines makes me anxious, so getting out there and being able to play my game feels really good.”

Buchioni wasn’t the only player to persevere through pain. Backup center Kyle McMahon rolled his ankle earlier in the week but managed to score in the second quarter as the Knights built their advantage.

Not only did the depth pieces step up for Stuart Hall, they were also able to shut off Urban’s secondary scoring. Smith had 18 despite an uncharacteristic 5-for-11 showing at the free throw line and Pescherine scored 12, but the bench scored just six points, with four from Saker and two coming from Sean Koffman.

Both teams are expected to receive high seeds in the NCS Division 5 Playoffs, with Stuart Hall a virtual lock for the top spot.

Girls: Lick-Wilmerding 47, Urban 34

Sophomore Annabel Schneiberg scored 17 points and Lick Wilmerding (26-1) completed a sweep of the regular season and tournament titles, outscoring Urban 21-6 in the third quarter to take a 37-23 lead. The Tigers also got eight points apiece from Ava Gray and Daisy Maunupau to offset a big game from Maia Pedrosa, who hit five 3-pointers and led the Blues with 17 to match Schneiberg. Rain Sheh added 11 for Urban (17-10), but just four players scored for the second-seeded Blues, who lost to Lick-Wilmerding for the third time this year.

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