By RYAN ALLEN, BELLARMINE COLLEGE PREP
March 3, 2013
Aaron Gordon led his team to a Central Coast Championship in all four of his years as the Mitty Monarchs defeated the Serra Padres, 55-46, in front of a packed house at Leavey Center on the campus of Santa Clara University. It was a game of runs and choppy play on both sides, but Gordon stayed consistent the entire game, finishing with 24 points, 23 rebounds, eight assists, four blocks and a steal.
“People have been expecting us to win, because we were so successful the previous years,” said Gordon. “It’s just good to get a fourth one.”
Gordon started the game dynamically, scoring nine of the team’s 17 points in the first quarter and hammering in a backward dunk that silenced Serra’s cheering section. On another play, he rebounded his own shot and put it up twice more to finally sink the layup. Later, he would dunk the ball on an inbound from the baseline. Serra struggled to contain him the whole game and could not make many shots near the rim.
Said Mitty coach Tim Kennedy: “For Aaron Gordon, what can you say? He misses shots and then he finds a way to go get it where nobody else is able to get it. It makes my life easier, like I know what I’m doing, saying ‘Hey, just throw it up there and go get it.’
“He’s so coachable because he wants to learn and be the best. Ever since he stepped foot on campus, he’s always taking criticism, he’s taking coaching. He’s not about himself, even though he has all the accolades in the world, he just wants to win. He’ll make that extra pass if he’s getting double-teamed. Before, he just led by example and he always had seniors who were able to vocalize. He’s just more vocal now.”
It was a game of runs. Mitty (25-5) started out hot with early shots by shooting guard Brandon Abajelo and point guard Connor Peterson. Serra (25-5) power forward Henry Caruso made a nice reverse layup around Gordon, but four quick fouls by the Padres gave the Monarchs many early free throws. Gordon hammered in a backward dunk and power forward Brandon Farrell rolled in a layup to put the Monarchs up 17-11 at the end of the first. Mitty then drove that score up 22-11 and forced a Padres timeout.
Serra whittled that lead to 24-20 with consecutive drive-in layups from center Matt Jajeh and a 3-pointer from sharpshooter Sean Watkins. But Abajelo hit a nice three from the left corner and Gordon blocked Caruso to swing momentum back in the Monarchs’ favor. With five seconds left, Gordon missed a close jumper, put it back up, missed again, and tipped it once more to sink a buzzer beater and give Mitty a 29-21 halftime lead.
Serra came out more aggressive in the third quarter. Watkins stole the ball and made a breakaway layup. Guard Andre Miller made a three from the top of the perimeter. Watkins hit another three. Caruso got a steal and made a three from the right corner. Small forward Eddie Stansberry made a block, which Caruso nearly turned into a dunk but settled for a layup. Power forward Jeramey Fields supplied another layup. Suddenly, Serra led, 36-35, midway through the third and Serra’s cheering section was reinvigorated.
“We played very good at stretches and very bad at stretches," Kennedy said. "I think it was a choppy game for both teams. We’d get on a run and get loose with the ball and turn it over. Then they would make the run."
Mitty effectively stopped the Padres’ momentum at the end of the third. Gordon waited for Serra to double-team him before dishing it to small forward Davis Messer, who swooshed a long three-point buzzer beater.
From there, the Monarchs led the rest of the game. They held Serra to seven points in the fourth. Watkins hit a three and Caruso blocked Gordon, but otherwise the Padres played unspectacularly and the Monarchs just tried to run down the clock. Gordon put-back his own shots twice more and earned his team another CCS title.
Peterson also played well for Mitty, finishing with seven points, two steals, three rebounds and one assist.
“I think the key was defense. We held them under 50 points," Peterson said. "I think overall the big atmosphere was better. Some of our other guys who hadn’t played varsity before were a little subtle and weren’t sure on plays, but they came together and got used to it.”
Both teams head to NorCal playoffs next week. Brackets will be decided tonight. In regards to the upcoming playoffs, Kennedy said, “We need to be consistent. We had letdowns on defense where we let guys get open looks. We need to also work on offensive efficiency. Being strong with the ball, not turning it over. We had a lot of turnovers where we need to tighten that up if we want to make a push.”