KENTFIELD, Calif - Coming off a heartbreaking 43-40 overtime loss in the NCS Division 3 title game just four days ago, Branson was back on their home floor in a CIF NorCal Division II first-round game. The Bulls grinded out a 51-43 win over visiting Jesuit on Tuesday in a game played at College of Marin.
Peyton Mullarkey hit two three’s, one from each corner to give Branson a three point lead with 2:56 to play. Lukas Prongos had a big night on both ends of the floor, blocking a key shot off the hands of Jesuit’s Kyle Anderson with 38.8 seconds to play. After that, the Bulls went 5-6 from the charity stripe, with Prongos going three for four, and Miles Keefe hitting the other two to seal the victory.
A slow start again by Branson made them feel uneasy, possibly having flashbacks to the aforementioned NCS title game from this past Saturday. The Bulls tallied just six points in the quarter, and only one field goal from Joaquim ArauzMoore. Jesuit, on the other hand got some stifling defense, and multiple second chances.
“It was a very tought first quarter. Our guys fought. The kids found a lot of heart to grind out this win,” said Branson head coach Jonas Honick.
Isa Silva, Gabe Dirksen, and Anderson were the hot shooters for the Marauders early on, with contributions from Jack Andre and Chris Holley, who tacked in three and four points each in the opening stanza. Jesuit held a 16-6 first quarter advantage.
“They probably played one of their best quarters and we weren’t ready for that. We knew we didn’t play our best quarter so we knew we had our run coming. We had to be patient and let it come to us.” said Prongos postgame.
“We knew we’d make our shots, and play our game. We just have to come out a little faster. We picked up our defense after the first quarter,” said Keefe.
That run did come in the second quarter. Defense became a factor on both sides, but Branson was superb, allowing just four Jesuit points in the quarter.
“We just went back to our game plan,” said Mullarkey.
It was Branson who got some outside shooting from Mullarkey and sophomore Jake Beere. Prongos had a basket, but just had four points to show for a slow first half for the senior. The Bulls had cut a 10 point deficit to just four at 20-16 at the half, with Jesuit on top.
The scoring picked up, and we saw why the two teams are ranked so close to one another. An evenly played third quarter saw Prongos come into action big time. He powered home six points through the first few minutes of the period, with more hot shooting from Beere to go along with it.
“We’ve been trusting him (Beere) all year and he’s gonna continue to make those shots for us,” Keefe said. “They don’t know who he is, but they’re gonna know who he is soon.”
The Marauders turned to Silva, who dropped in nine points in the period, and Holley who had five. Jesuit held a seven point advantage late in the third period, but Prongos knocked one home as time expired to get the deficit back to four at 36-32 in favor of Jesuit after three.
Jesuit went into the fourth leading by four, and would essentially trade baskets with Branson for the first four minutes. Alex Horiuk extended Jesuit’s lead to seven, Prongos cutting the Branson deficit down to four before Silva had dropped one home to but the Marauders back up six. Both team’s number four’s, Branson’s Beere and Jesuit’s Holley exchanged buckets.
“We went small to spread them out and it gave us a few more driving lanes and opened things up for Lukas and Jake. 10 points off the bench for Jake, that’s a great night,” Honick said.
After that, it was lock down defense in what is Branson’s trademark. In the last two minutes and forty seconds of the game, Jesuit was held scoreless, with great defense provided by Prongos, Mullarkey, and Keefe.
Prongos finished with 20 points for Branson, with Mullarkey scoring 11, Beere 10, and Keefe with 8 points.
Silva finished with 16 points for Jesuit with Holley dropping in 13 points.
Branson grabs win number 30 on the season, and will go to Atherton to take on three seeded Sacred Heart Prep on Thursday. The two teams lone common opponent is St Patrick-St Vincent from Vallejo, who both lost to by three points.
“We have a lot on the line this year. We’re always playing for Kwentyn. We’re really hungry,” Prongos said.
“We’ll just look to keep it rolling, and we play another good team. We’ll go through practice on Wednesday and be ready to go on Thursday,” Keefe commented.
“We’ve been here before, this being my fourth time in NorCals, and is my last, so might as well give it my all,” said Mullarkey. “Coach Honick always gets us ready. In my opinion he’s the best coach in high school basketball.”
“We always have something to prove. We lost my best friend and most valuable teammate so we have something to prove every single night, it doesn’t change. We want to play for him, it’s all for Kwentyn,” Mullarkey continued.
“The guys definitely have it in the back of their mind,” Honick added, talking about last year's Division I NorCal title game loss.
Jesuit’s fine season comes to a close with a 22-10 overall record.