SAN JOSE — In some senses, Saturday night was par for the course at Mitty’s Fien Gymnasium, with a team wearing black and gold spreading the ball around and getting double-digit outputs from four different players.
The thing is, it wasn’t the hometown Monarchs going to work on offense. It was the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons, who rode a balanced attack and put on a dunk contest in the process to win 73-60 in a CIF Open Division Quarterfinal.
“The whole team is adjusted to this tempo,” said Ryzon Norris, who scored seven points and dished out five assists. “In practice, we always do fastbreaks, and we’ve gotten to a point where it’s just natural for us.”
Three of Norris’ assists came in the third quarter as the Dragons opened on a 14-3 run to take their largest lead at 47-29, capped off by Norris setting up an open Marsalis Roberson for three of his 12 points and the only one of the junior’s field goals that wasn’t a dunk. Earlier, Roberson, who normally favors his right hand, threw down one of the best jams of the year with a one-handed rip as he got fouled.
Those dunks and an 18-point deficit wouldn’t spell the end for second-seeded Mitty (23-5), though. The hosts closed the third on a 15-5 run, getting a pair of threes and a three-point play from Marcus Greene and four second chance points from sophomore Aidan Burke to get back in the game. Mikey Mitchell’s three with just over five minutes remaining cut it to 55-49, but the Dragons answered with an and-1 from Cal commit Monty Bowser to restore momentum.
Freshman Jalen Lewis, who had 18 points and eight rebounds, followed with a 3-pointer after Austin Ronzone had made a terrific hustle play to save a loose ball, and Taj Phillips, the smallest man on the floor at a generous listing of 5-foot-9, hit a floater to make it a 14-point lead. Always an intense defender, Phillips was also O’Dowd’s leading scorer on Saturday night, with 19.
“It’s heart over height,” he said. “I’ve gotten more confident in my shot.”
Mitty would never get closer than 11 the rest of the way, and after Phillips hit four free throws with just under two minutes left, the third-seeded Dragons would finish things off with a Bowser-to-Lewis alley-oop and the last of Roberson’s four dunks, a one-handed jam as the bench and packed visiting stands erupted.
“Great environment,” head coach Lou Richie said of the sold-out crowd.
While fans had been flocking to Mitty’s campus all day, first for a NorCal soccer championship, then for a girls Open Division game and finally for the showdown with Bishop O’Dowd (23-7), it was the visiting stands that cheered the loudest for much of the game, not only for Roberson’s thunderous dunks, but also for plays like Ronzone saving a loose ball and every time the Dragons slowed the pace in the final minutes to inch closer to the victory.
Though the visitors did bleed the clock late in the game, they were playing at breakneck speed early on, with Lewis scoring eight in the first quarter and Roberson, who had 12 points and eight rebounds, delivering two of his dunks.
“We threw some soft passes, they started hitting and they kept hitting,” said Greene, who scored 12 to lead the Monarchs. “Once that started, it was hard to come back.”
In all, the Dragons connected on nine 3-pointers.
“Part of it was me,” Mitty head coach Tim Kennedy said of his team’s defensive struggles. “I screwed up the scouting report. I didn’t think they were gonna be able to shoot that well.”
O’Dowd hit four 3-pointers in the first quarter alone and three more in the third. Phillips answered one from Owen Browne, taking the pass after Norris grabbed an offensive rebound, and though Greene would hit one out of the timeout after the Dragons had opened up their largest lead, Roberson’s assault on the offensive glass led to a three by Phillips.
The Monarchs did close the quarter strong, getting the lead down to eight on Burke’s putback, but Bowser, who scored 15, got the first three points of the fourth and got the and-1 that set his team up to put the game away, ending the Monarchs’ season on their home floor.
“I’m gonna remember this for the rest of my life. It’s a great way to fight,” Greene said. “If I’m gonna lose, I get to lose with family.”
Though Greene was Mitty’s high scorer, underclassmen had their share of big contributions. Burke had 10 points and five of his nine rebounds on the offensive glass while Mitchell had six points and four assists despite battling a lingering wrist injury.
“I wasn’t gonna let a little wrist injury hold me back,” the Pepperdine commit said. “My dad says you’re only 100 percent healthy at the beginning of the year.”
The other four seniors to see their careers come to an end alongside Greene were Mason Ryan (nine points, nine rebounds), his cousin, Jake Ryan, Owen Browne and James Thomas, who was held out of action with an ankle injury.
“I’m just happy I was able to be a part of such a great group of coaches and players,” said Browne, who scored seven. “We created a family from day one. I’ve personally given everything I have, and everyone in this program has given everything they’ve had.”
At the conclusion of Saturday’s game, the thought was that the Dragons would play Dublin on Tuesday for the Northern California championship, but there is now talk of top-seeded Sheldon re-entering the tournament, revoking an extremely unpopular decision from the Elk Grove Unified School District. Should that happen, the Huskies would play at Dublin on Tuesday, with O’Dowd hosting the winner on Thursday.