SAN MATEO, CA - The Hillsdale basketball team has its strengths and positive attributes, but height is not one of them. There aren't many smaller teams around.
Visiting Prospect exploited that lack of size in the first half, but Hillsdale clamped down on the Panthers in the second half en route to a 60-50 Knight victory. The triumph came in a CCS Division III second-round game.
Hillsdale will now meet top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral (13-11) on Saturday at St. Ignatius at a time to be determined.
"At halftime we definitely decided to dedicate a guy to No. 42 and No. 32 -- every time we had to put a body on them," Hillsdale coach Brett Stevenson said. "We're obviously undersized, but we tried to compete with them on the glass."
Prospect has two 6-foot-7 players in Luke Swidler and Nemanja Rajic and Swidler especially hurt Hillsdale in the first half, scoring 15 points and taking nine rebounds as the Panthers stayed close, trailing 29-28 at the break. However, Swidler scored just five second-half points and finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds.
"They made the nice halftime adjustment," Prospect coach Mike Furlong said. "They were bringing the forward low on our short corner and when they got off on a little (7-0) run our guys panicked a little and started settling for the jump shots and then it went to a double-digit deficit. We also missed a ton of free throws."
Prospect made just 12 of 26 from the free throw line.
Hillsdale heated up in the second half, led by senior guard Adam Schembri who scored 15 points in the final 16 minutes and finished with 21 for the game. He had four 3-pointers.
"The first half I made a couple of 3's and I missed a couple," Schembri said. "I knew I could do better than that. I shot well in the regular season. Coach Ramirez and coach Stevenson told me to let the game come to me. Then the shots started falling. I was really feeling it in the second half."
Leading by one to start the second half, Schembri got Hillsdale rolling with a 3. That touched off a 7-0 Knight run that ended with a Schrembi lay-up and put the Knights up 36-28. They still led, 46-36, after Colin Low managed a steal and lay-up with 16.3 seconds left.
Prospect never got closer than a six-point deficit the rest of the way.
Said Furlong: "The biggest thing we found out between playing in the Mt. Hamilton and playing a PAL team is we have to be willing to sacrifice and get our elbows and knees dirty and get on the floor because that's been the difference in games against Piedmont Hills and Hillsdale."
Hillsdale had a lot of contributors, with Taiga Schwarz scoring 12, Low seven, Nick Vanos six, Dante Fontenot eight and Adam Cook eight.
Joseph Mosqueda backed Swidler with 11 points and Rajic had seven.
Now Hillsdale takes a step up in class as it faces a team from the meat-grinder WCAL.
"They were on our schedule for about four years and so we're pretty familiar with them," Stevenson said. "Obviously Darrell (Barbour) does a great job and they're a WCAL program so we have to be prepared because they're a great program."
SHC owns a victory against CCS Open Division No. 2-seeded Serra, the highest-ranked team in San Mateo County.