Like magician David Blaine, the St. Patrick-St. The Vincent High Boys basketball team is famous for their elaborate magic tricks.
Throughout the game, the Bruin’s Lair crowd might have wondered what illusion the Bruins would create in the final minutes of the Division III North Coast Section championship against Ross’ No. 2 Branson.
Unfortunately for No. 2 seeded St. Pat’s, the No. 2 Rams had all the smoke and mirrors on Saturday night as they avenged a loss to the Bruins in the 2020 Division title game, 82- 75.
Junior George Gale had 12 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter — one of four in double digits for Branson (25-5).
“That’s what championship teams do – (Branson) made big shots, they made big free throws, got the saves they needed. They made the plays tonight,” the manager said. Bruins head coach Derek Walker.
St. Pat’s (22-2) picked up a two-point victory over Archie Williams in the sectional semifinal without Tri-County Athletic League Rock Division MVP Nick Medeiros, who had to sit out due to the COVID protocol. Medeiros was back on Saturday and the senior scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
“(Branson) was just a better team tonight,” Medeiros said. “It’s not the result we wanted, obviously.”
The Bruins were down just 70-67 with 3:20 left in the fourth quarter after a bucket from senior Jevon Blackmore (15 points), who was at fault for the majority of the game. However, Joaquim Arauz-Moore’s back-to-back jumpers launched a 7-1 push that put the Bulls in control.
St. Pat’s made it a two possession game at 77-73 with 46 seconds left after Medeiros shot down the hall. However, the Bruins were forced to foul and Branson made six of 10 on the line to freeze the win.
Arauz-Moore and freshman Semetri Carr both had 18 points and Branson’s other post player, Jase Butler, added 11 points.
Despite playing on the road, Branson looked ready from the get-go, leading 9-3 out and forcing Walker to call time out. St. Pat’s bounced back from there, closing 18-16 late in the first quarter on a Medeiros jumper. The Bulls took a 21-18 lead late in the period.
The two teams remained close throughout the second quarter. It looked like St. Pat’s would go into halftime just 36-33 after two foul shots from Medeiros with 20 seconds left, but Gale made a comeback at the buzzer to give his team a 38-33 lead heading into the changing room. .
Medeiros kept his team within one possession early in the fourth quarter as he hit two foul shots with 2.1 seconds left to bring his team within 54-51. Medeiros also hit a 3-pointer off the top of the key early in the fourth quarter as the Bruins trailed just 57-56.
Unfortunately for St. Pat’s, the Bruins were never able to tie or take the lead. Every time they got close, the Bulls had an answer.
The game didn’t play out at the typical pace of St. Pat’s. The Bruins normally limit an opponent’s scoring chances with their half-court defense, but Branson looked ready.
“We were hoping the (trap) would help, but their coach did a great job of setting them up and being in the right places,” Walker said. “They did things that other teams didn’t do when we pressed. They took advantage of that.”
Medeiros agreed with his coach.
“They handled (the trap) really well,” he said. “I’m sure they watched a movie of us and were ready. We haven’t stolen many things from our trap, but it does happen.
Branson head coach Steve Johnson spoke to the Marin Independent Journal about keeping pace.
“We just dealt with their pressure,” Johnson said. “We knew they would play fast and we decided to play fast. … We went against the pressure in training. We tried to simulate what they do and we were just ready.
Branson became the first California team to inflict a loss on St. Pat’s in 2021-22. The Bruins’ only loss came against a team from Arizona. It was also the Bruins’ first loss at home this season.
St. Pat’s will await the slices for the Northern California State playoffs on Sunday. Walker said he had no idea if his team would be home or on the road for the NorCals.