Even though the final score (61-43) indicates an 18-point loss, UHS was never out of the game. After a demoralizing 15-0 St. Joseph’s run to begin the game, it was not looking good for the Running Red Devils. With senior captain Noah playing on an injured ankle, I thought we would see a repeat of the NCS championship, where St. Joes took and maintained a massive lead throughout the entire game. Despite the initial setback, the Devils fought back, reducing the deficit to 9 points at the end of the first quarter as a result of sophomore guard Harold’s drives to the basket and Monta Ellis-esque lay-ups. However, the St. Joseph’s Pilots were unfazed, continuing to attack the basket and knock down three-pointers.
The second quarter also belonged to the Pilots. St. Joseph’s shot well, pushed the tempo, and forced several UHS mistakes, increasing their lead to 16 at the half to make the score 32-16. Even with a momentum-changing 8-0 run to end the third quarter to make the score 40-31, it was not the Devils’ game. As the fourth quarter wore on, St. Joseph’s showed why they were the favorite in the game, maintaining their composure and scoring on the fast-break against a team that isn’t called the Running Red Devils for nothing. Ultimately, the 61-43 final score was not indicative of the true nature of the game. Disregarding the first and final fours minutes in which St. Joes had a 20-something point advantage, the Devils outscored, but more importantly, competed with, the number one seed St. Joseph’s team.
The Devils had another rough shooting night against St. Joes, converting only 25 percent of field goals, which can be contributed to the Pilots’ multitude of talented and athletic defenders who harassed and pressured UHS ball handlers. To make matters worse, UHS could overcome St. Joes’ size in the paint, particularly the 6’9” center who blocked shots, prevented a successful inside game, and grabbed rebounds like he was six inches taller than his opponents (oh, wait…). The rebounding totals were also heavily in favor of the Pilots.
Because the 3-point shooting was silent until the 3rd quarter, many of the highlights included lightning quick drives to the basket by senior Zio and sophomore Harold, who each put up 11 points. Even though he sprained his ankle earlier this week and was clearly not in top form, senior Noah contributed, not in the score column, but as a solid rebounder and defender, taking several critical charges. Fellow senior Matt was also not on his shooting game, but added defensive intensity, grabbing or forcing several steals. Sophomores David and Chris each provided upbeat and aggressive guard play that stretched St. Joes’ defense throughout the game, but were both held to modest scoring totals. Even though sophomore Will and freshmen Jack played moderately well by getting rebounds, St. Joseph’s size, athleticism, and experience proved to be too much for these undersized underclassmen as the game wore on. In the final minutes of the game, senior Thomas and juniors Erik and Greg got into the game, but did not factor into the score. Despite being sidelined by injuries, senior Ryan, junior Max, and sophomore James contributed to the team’s intensity by supporting from the bench.
Even though the 18-point deficit seems colossal, with more consistent composure, a team of healthy players, one or two calls in our favor, and a couple positive bounces off the rim, the Running Red Devils could have emerged from the game as NorCal Division V Champions. However, these aspects were few and far between and the Devils fell for a third time in as many meetings this year against a very talented St. Joseph’s team. Ultimately, repeating as NorCal runners-up was not the final objective this year, but with a record of 28-7, a BCL-W title, and spots in the finals of both the NCS and Northern California State tournaments, it is impossible to question the Running Red Devils spirit, ability, determination, and drive. Congratulations on a great season!