NorCal basketball: Bishop O’Dowd returns to Open final

OAKLAND — There were highlights galore Tuesday night — thunderous dunks, explosive blocks, electrifying steals — and that was just in the first quarter.

In a tense, tight Northern California Open Division boys basketball semifinal, it took everything Bishop O’Dowd had to get past Modesto Christian.

But the Dragons finally did it, winning 61-58 before a charged-up, standing-room-only crowd at Laney College.

The outcome was not decided until Junior Ballard’s 3-point attempt from half court caromed off the rim and landed out of bounds with a second left.

“We played great together and that’s all that matters,” said O’Dowd’s Washington-bound guard Elijah Hardy, who scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half. “We got the win, and we’re on to the next one. We’re not done yet.”

The Dragons advance to play Sheldon-Sacramento on Saturday night at Santa Clara University for the NorCal championship and a trip to Sacramento a week later for the state title.

O’Dowd led by two points at halftime and by the same margin through three quarters.

Before the final period began, longtime coach Lou Richie told his players what they needed to do to have the advantage at the end.

“We had to rebound,” Richie said. “The fourth quarter we said, ‘We’re not keeping score. We’re keeping rebounds as the score. If we get 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter, we can win this game.’”

The Dragons followed Richie’s instructions, taking care of the boards and not giving Modesto Christian second and third opportunities to keep possessions alive.

But O’Dowd made the final seconds more tense than necessary, missing all four of its free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter. That included two front end of one-and-ones, the latter with nine seconds left that would have iced the game.

“Everybody said great game,” Richie said. “It was too great a game.”

Modesto Christian, a team loaded with talent and height, stormed to a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes before the large. But by the end of the first quarter it was clear that this game was not going to be easy for either side.

To counter Modesto Christian’s size advantage, Richie countered with 6-foot-8 junior Raymond Hawkins, who made his first appearance with 30 seconds left in the opening period.

Before the second quarter started, the big fella had the crowd roaring as he threw down a dunk on a breakaway to pull O’Dowd to within 18-14 after the first eight minutes.

“He had a great game for …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports

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