Marin Independent Journal

Marin Catholic's run ends in semifinals

- By Tim Menicutch

The Marin Catholic High boys basketball team finally found a hill too steep to climb in its quest to keep a storybook season alive.

Emerging after a run-ofthe mill MCAL season, the Wildcats took most everybody by surprise in fashioning a whirlwind run through the postseason.

But in the end, a fullyloade­d Half Moon Bay squad dashed MC's dreams, defeating the Wildcats 6560 in the semifinals of the NorCal state championsh­ip Division IV tournament Saturday night in Kentfield.

Half Moon Bay, the best looking No. 10-seed to come along in some time, forged a 19-11 first quarter lead and the Cougars never trailed in halting No. 3 Marin Catholic's season.

“We had our chances,” MC coach Mike Saia said. “We just dug ourselves too big of a hole. Early in the game, we didn't shoot hot and they shot hot.”

Half Moon Bay's 6-foot 8-inch junior forward Jaeden Hutchins was radiating with heat, scorching the nets for 11 of his gamehigh 22 points in the opening period.

`We tried to prepare for (Hutchins),” Saia said. “But 6-8 is 6-8.”

The Wildcats (16-18) were unquestion­ably hamstrung by Hutchins' size.

“He's a good one,” Half Moon Bay coach John Parsons said. “Every team game plans to stop him and it allows other players to step in and score.”

Half Moon Bay freshman guard Gio Garduno was a big beneficiar­y of the Hutchins factor, pouring in 19 points, including a gamehigh five 3-point shots.

“That slow start hurt,” said MC senior guard JR Bosch, who scored 17 points. “It's hard to dig yourself out of that kind of hole. We're a small team. And a player like Hutchins, that type of big player, has given our team problems all season.”

The Wildcats hung around in the second quarter and cut the Cougars' advantage to 31-24 at halftime on a Maas 3-pointer.

The third quarter, however, was a poison pill for the Wildcats.

After falling behind by as many as 13 points, Marin Catholic rallied boldly in the final two minutes of the period.

Guard Charles Williams, who led the Wildcats with 18 points and 10 rebounds, capped a 7-2 run by swishing from beyond the arc. The Wildcats were finally within striking distance, trailing, 44-38, with 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

But a lot can happen in 29 seconds — and it was all bad for the Wildcats as the Cougars knocked down a 3-point shot and then stole the ensuing in-bound pass for a layup.

In the blink of an eye, Marin Catholic was down by 11 points again.

“Those five points absolutely were a gamechange­r,” Bosch said. “It killed our momentum right when we were making a run to get back into the game.”

In the fourth quarter, Marin Catholic had one last trick up its sleeve — and it nearly turned into magic.

The Wildcats employed a full-court press and the Cougars struggled, turning the ball over nine times in the quarter after suffering six turnovers combined in the first three quarters.

Despite an abundance of chances produced by the defense, however, the Wildcats never converted enough opportunit­ies at the other end of the floor.

“The full-court pressure worked,” Saia said. “And we had some good looks. We just missed some shots.”

By the time Bosch and sophomore guard Dante Stallone found the range on deep 3-point field goals, it was simply too little, too late.

“We started slow this season and nobody expected us to be any good,” Bosch said. “But we knew we had a ton of athletes on this team. I'm proud of this team. They came together and turned into a very good team.”

Saia said this Marin Catholic basketball team will be remembered because of its tenacity and tremendous team play.

“I'm just proud of these guys,” Saia said. “We're not even a .500 team and yet we played in six playoff games.”

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