“This is the first time St. Monica has advanced this far since 2001 and it will be my first time in the third round,” said Coach Tony Depa.
St. Monica was only the fourth place team in the Camino Real League this season but the boys’ basketball team has reached the third round of the CIF Division 5AA playoffs.
Following playoff wins over Milken and Notre Dame of Riverside, St. Monica (19-9) was scheduled to host Woodcrest Christian (24-3) Tuesday night, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. in a quarter-final game.
The winner will become one of only four teams left in the division playoffs.
“The gym was packed for the second round game against a higher seeded team. We came back from 12 points behind and our only lead was near the finish. Then they had a three-point attempt that bounced off the rim at the final buzzer.
So St. Monica was able to escape with a 45-43 victory.
“I was told by some long-time fans the game ranked with the most exciting ones ever played in our gym, and knowing the history of St. Monica basketball that’s really saying something.”
In the first round St. Monica was the visitor but had only a short ride up the 405 Freeway to Milken.
“They were a league champion but we didn’t have to travel far,” said Depa. “They played at a slow tempo and built a 10-point lead. Then we went ahead by 13 and held on to win, 51-46.”
Junior Ryan Capino was scoreless in the first half of that game but finished with 13 points.
The playoff run gives Mariner fans something to cheer about following four forgettable football seasons which resulted in one win and 37 losses.
Depa gave major credit to Capino, who has played well since returning from a knee injury.
“He put us on his back,” said Depa.
At the outset of the second round game the taller Riverside team took an 8-0 lead. But Capino then hit a pair of three-point shots. St. Monica then was able to stay close, trailing by only three points at halftime.
When the Mariners fell 12 points behind in the third quarter they tightened their defense, with Richard Gibson and James Ward playing major roles.
St. Monica outscored Riverside 11-4 in the fourth quarter and Capino finished with 18 points.
The St. Monica girls team also qualified for the 5AA playoffs and won their first roind game, 34-31 over Ontario Christian. But St.Monica was eliminated in the second roumd, losing to St. Bonaventure, 55-42.