MOUNTAIN VIEW — From Keshad Johnson’s dunk for the game’s first points to when the San Leandro Pirates rested their starters for the fourth quarter as they led by as much as 26 points, there was no doubt which team was the best at the 42nd Joe Schram Classic.
With all three wins by double-digits, including Saturday’s 57-39 championship victory over the Santa Cruz Cardinals, San Leandro was bigger, faster and deeper than any other team in the field.
The Pirates team that struggled through the first half of Thursday’s first-round game, leading Hillsdale by just four, showed why opponents that hang around for a while shouldn’t get too comfortable. San Leandro (11-3) can break off a big run at any moment to put games out of reach. On Saturday, the Pirates held Santa Cruz scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the first half, outscoring the Cardinals 14-0 over the stretch between the first and second quarters. Johnson had just 11 points in the championship game, thanks largely to excellent defense by Robert Bishop III, but he had two dunks during that 14-0 run, throwing down two-handed jams on back-to-back plays less than three minutes into the second quarter. The first came off a stretch pass from Kiki Aguirre and the second was a Johnson steal and jam, bringing the lead to 18-5.
By the time the Cardinals figured out how to play with a team like San Leandro, it was far too late to affect the outcome. The run finally ended on a Bishop basket with three minutes left in the second to make it 20-7, and even though Santa Cruz (8-5) got five straight points from Makai Norman and a Zavier Hill-Kemp three, a Johnson three at the halftime buzzer sent the Pirates into the break up 14, and as they exploded for 24 points in the third quarter with a steady barrage of drives to the hoop, there was no chance of a close finish.
“Any time you play the 29th-ranked team in the state, they’re going to have some different things going on,” said Santa Cruz head coach Lawan Milhouse. “We just have to take the good with the bad. It’s great experience, and we’re leaving this tournament with two wins.”
In addition to his excellent defense on Johnson, a San Diego State commit with nearly half a foot on him, Bishop scored 10 points. Hill-Kemp led the Cardinals with 11 and Norman added nine. It was an inspired effort by a Santa Cruz team that never lost composure or mailed it in despite cold shooting, but this night was about San Leandro.
With Santa Cruz bringing in just two regular reserves off the bench, the Pirates were able to keep fresh legs all night, using a nine-man rotation and mixing in three more as the lead widened to as much as 26 before the Cardinals scored the game’s last eight points.
That depth has been especially helpful for Johnson, who has been able to fit in with the Pirates after playing three years at Envision Academy.
“We’re just all jelling,” he said. “Last year, I wasn’t on a deep team and didn’t have much help. Now I don’t have to save my energy; I can just go hard, ask for a sub and get back in there to help.”
He wasn’t even the lead scorer on Saturday, though his overall performance across all three games earned him the tournament MVP honors. Saturday’s high-point man was Ciri Sawyer, who scored 20 and earned the tournament’s Mr. Hustle award. While the duo accounted for more than half of the Pirates’ scoring, the team also managed to total up 14 assists on 24 field goals, with five apiece from Junior Maile and Kiki Aguirre.
With starting point guard Lawrence Long having missed the last seven games with calf injuries, it’s been point guard by committee, and Maile, with his muscular build more geared towards setting screens and throwing his weight around in the post, has been both a huge asset and a tremendously entertaining player.
“Junior’s not just a situational player,” said head coach Darrnaryl Stamps. “He’s one of those guys who does everything that we need him to be able to do. A couple weeks ago (at San Ramon Valley’s Mark Madsen Invitational, which the Pirates also won), he averaged 18 points a game.”
Combine Maile’s passing ability with Johnson’s showstopping plays, and it’s no wonder San Leandro won one of the Bay Area’s best tournaments, becoming the first team outside of the hosts to take the title home since the Pirates had won the 2012 edition.
3rd Place: St. Francis 77, San Ramon Valley 76 (OT)
Even with three regulars injured, the St. Francis Lancers managed to finish third in their own tournament behind a huge game from Roy Yuan, who filled in as point guard and scored 29 on the night, including six 3-pointers.
“Coach Motil came up to me today and said, ‘you’re playing point,’” Yuan explained following the overtime win. “I was surprised, because he had said before that I was the last person who would ever play point.”
Instead of knocking down shots from his usual catch-and-shoot role, Yuan was often creating for himself on Saturday evening in a back-and-forth thriller of a game that stayed within four points until the fourth quarter, then headed to overtime after a remarkable comeback by San Ramon Valley (7-6).
After Matteo Fontana put St. Francis (7-2) ahead 45-44 at the third-quarter buzzer and hit a three to open the fourth, accounting for all five of his points, Sam Warren answered back for SRV, but the Lancers finally found a bit of separation with threes by Trevor Leon and Yuan. The Wolves found themselves in a six-point hole with 5:18 left before baskets by Brady Bowman and Daniel Corbett, but a Leon three restored a five-point lead. SRV point guard Sebastian Scott was then called for his fifth foul on a charge and an Anthony Landphere basket gave the Lancers their largest lead of the night at 59-52.
Two of Pat Deely’s team-high 18 points cut the gap to five with 1:30 left, but the Lancers were in excellent shape after two free throws by Ryan Daly with 47.4 left. Any concern that arose for the hosts when Michael Santich drained a three on the next Wolves possession was done away with on two more Leon free throws, and when Corbett settled for a drive to the hoop on the next possession, the third-place game looked like a done deal. A five-second violation gave the ball back to the guests, and Bowman scored off the inbound pass. Still, the Wolves would need St. Francis to falter at the free throw line, and even when Evan Williams did miss both of his attempts, Daly, who had been throwing touchdown passes to him throughout the fall, came up with the offensive rebound. Daly then split two free throws, with Deely rebounding the second and firing a long pass to Santich, who drained the game-tying 3-pointer and stunned the home crowd, a modest gathering for winter break, with 5.9 seconds left.
Yuan hit two more 3-pointers in overtime, sandwiched around a three from Santich, but the Wolves took a 73-72 lead with 58.3 left when Warren made two of three from the line. St. Francis went back on front on two free throws from Landphere, who was fouled on a third-chance rebound with 44.9 left in OT, and the SDSU-bound tight end looked like a safety in the open field when he intercepted an SRV pass on the next possession. That gave Daly two free throws, which he made, and after a Bowman three was off the mark, Leon split a pair at the line with 12.7 left. Even so, that wouldn’t settle things for good, as a Corbett 3-pointer got the lead back down to a point with 4.8 left. San Ramon Valley even intercepted the inbound pass, but Warren’s 19-foot jumper at the buzzer missed, giving St. Francis the win.
Santich scored 16 behind four 3-pointers, Corbett added 13 points off the bench and Bowman finished with nine. The Lancers got 15 from Leon, who was held scoreless in Friday’s semifinal loss to Santa Cruz, and Landphere chipped in 11.
5th Place: Monterey 58, Palma 47
15 points from Brenden Cannon and 11 from Colin Neff kept Palma (6-4) in the game against a Toreadores team with outstanding offensive talent, but 24 points from Mohammed Adam and 10 from Suheil Ibrahim helped Monterey (10-2) take the consolation bracket.
7th Place: Hillsdale 60, Lynbrook 50
Hillsdale (6-5) opened up an 11-point halftime lead en route to a win in the seventh-place game. The Fighting Knights had three scorers in double-figures, with Ian Nepomuceno and freshman Calvin Mader-Clark each scoring 14. Seth Godtfredsen finished with 12, while Ethan Lin scored 13 for Lynbrook (0-12).