As Notre Dame’s Josh Jacobs let go of his three-point shot attempt, a raucous Saint Monica gym suddenly became quiet. So quiet in fact, that you could hear the clank of the rim as it deflected Jacobs’ shot harmlessly to the floor. The ensuing buzzer that signaled the Mariners’ victory was consequently drowned out, as Mariner fans stormed the court in jubilation. The Saint Monica Mariners boys’ basketball team is advancing to the Division 5AA quarterfinals after their 45-43 victory Friday night.
After winning a playoff game for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, February 18, the Mariners hosted the Notre Dame (Riverside) Titans. The Titans dominated on the glass, hardly allowing the Mariners to sniff a rebound, but they did not shoot well. Still, only junior Ryan Capiro’s two three-pointers kept the game from getting out of hand, and by the end of the first quarter, Notre Dame led 13-6.
The second quarter was a back and forth affair, but the Mariners managed to cut the lead to 23-20, giving the fans hope. The Titans came out in the second half trying to put the game out of reach. They took a 34-22 lead within only a few minutes in the third quarter, helped by the post play of center Will Smith. Mariner Coach Tony Depa called a timeout and went on a tirade so loud, it could be heard through a capacity crowd chanting “let’s go Mariners.” “We didn’t want our season to end [in a loss],” said senior point guard Julian Andrews. Whatever Coach Depa said worked. When the third quarter ended, a 12 point deficit had been cut to 5, 39-34.
Ryan Capiro, who had kept the game close in the first quarter with his three-pointers, now sparked the comeback with his points in the paint. He and senior swingman, Jordan Tordecilla, found their groove, as Tordecilla pivoted through double teams and made crisp passes to Capiro in the lane, combing for 6 quick points. “We started looking inside. Capiro is a great cutter, so it was real easy to hit him inside,” said Tordecilla about their fourth quarter success. A previously impenetrable middle was now being taken advantage of, and the Mariners trailed only 41-39. With the game tied at 43, senior center James Ward took a jump shot from the free throw line to put St. Monica up for good.
The Mariners were able to keep the game close until the fourth quarter and then found a way to win. Andrews ran the offense well, making a couple of big shots, and junior Richard Gibson had 8 fast break points to keep the game within reach.
The crowd also cannot be forgotten. The senior student section led the way on a night when you could not hear yourself scream, doing everything they could to pump up the Mariners and distract the other team. “You know what won the game tonight? The…crowd,” assistant coach Ross Tordecilla said.
Now in the quarterfinals, St. Monica plays Woodcrest Christian at home on February 25, 2009, hoping to extend this magical season.