The Mercury News
Granada defeats Salesian for its first NorCal crown
SAN PABLO >> Salesian might've had the prettier style of play, but without anyone on the roster within 6 inches of Granada's 7-foot senior, Andrew McKeever, Salesian needed to knock down shots to have a chance.
It didn't happen, as the Pride went 5 for 22 (23%) from 3-point range while McKeever and 6-foot-7 senior Tyler Harris were too much to handle as Granada ran away with a 60-47 win in the NorCal Division I championship game at Contra Costa College on Tuesday night.
“I don't think anyone matches up with them, that's the thing,” said Salesian coach Bill Mellis.
Under fifth-year coach Quaran Johnson, the Matadors captured the school's first NorCal title and will get a chance at the Division I state title on Friday in Sacramento. They'll be up against Notre DameSherman Oaks, led by Duke-bound Caleb Foster and Gonzaga-bound Dusty Stromer.
“I'm excited for the boys to have this opportunity,” Johnson said. “I'm proud. I have so many emotions flowing through my body, man. My heart is just jumping out of my chest with joy.”
With McKeever, a Saint Mary's commit, and Harris, who said he'll wait until after the state championship game to make a decision on his next step, Granada has a pair of seniors who take up space in the paint and play to each other's strengths.
McKeever struggled to get going early on Tuesday night as Salesian defenders were magnetized to him whenever he was within 15 feet of the basket. Despite having a size advantage — he was often guarded by one of Salesian's 6-3 guards — the double-team defense made it difficult for him to get any clean looks.
But he made a statement early in the first quarter, when he was left wide open behind the 3-point line and drained a trey.
“My first one of the season,” he said afterward.
Granada started using McKeever to attract defenders before kicking the ball out to senior Kevin Grant, who was 4 for 5 from 3-point range and scored 16 points.
“We knew it would be a battle of how they're going to guard (McKeever),” Johnson said. “And if they double him, then we're going to knock down the open shot.”
It often looked like Granada was playing keepaway, tossing the ball high in the air and letting McKeever get to work. He was 4 for 12 from the floor but still finished with 14 points and five blocks.
Led by a smooth ballhandler in junior guard Aaron Claytor, Salesian found plenty of open looks. But after going 12 for 18 (67%) from 3-point range in their NorCal semifinal win over San Ramon Valley, the Pride couldn't get shots to fall.
“It's easy to shoot the ball when you're ahead and it's tougher to shoot when you're behind,” Mellis said.
Behind 27-20 at halftime, Salesian hit a 3-pointer to start the third quarter, but on the next play McKeever evaded a triple team by dishing a pass to Harris, who dunked it home.
Thus began a pattern of McKeever and Harris going back and forth scoring buckets, with Harris maneuvering around the court and creating chances for the two big men.
The Matadors were thrilled to see Harris score game-high 18 points. He transferred from Salesian to Granada before the season.