Hornets Miss State Title by Six Points
Free throws prove team’s undoing in 59-53 defeat
The Alameda High men’s basketball team’s season wrapped up at the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Div. II state final without the storybook ending the team desired.
The Hornets were able to withstand the play of Crossroads of Santa Monica (25-9) and their star captain Shareef O’Neal, but were unable to withstand their own play in Alameda’s 59-53 defeat Friday, March 23, at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. The deciding factor in the contest was the Hornet’s free-throw shooting. As one free-throw attempt after another bounced off the rim, the Hornets saw their chances at a historical season slip away.
The Hornets missed 15 free throws (13-28) in the six-point loss.
Alameda was within striking distance late. Hornet sophomore Bowman Roach cut the Roadrunners’ lead to 56-53 with 16.7 seconds left with a layup, in which he was fouled. However, Roach missed the extra-point free throw, which would have cut the lead to two points. The Hornets fouled a Crossroads player to stop the clock. The Roadrunners converted three more free throws to hold on for the win.
The Hornets began the game with the momentum. They jumped out to a 15-6 lead midway through the first quarter. The Roadrunners were able to cut the deficit to 18-13 by the end of the first quarter. Alameda managed to hold on to a slim lead for most of the second quarter, but the Roadrunners took their first lead at 28-26 with about a minute left in the quarter. The score remained at 28-26 at halftime.
The Hornets were able to regain the lead at 32-29 early in the third quarter. But the lead did not last as the Roadrunners took the lead back at 36-35. Alameda did not regain the lead for the rest of the ball game. The game remained tight, however, as Crossroads’ largest lead in the quarter was 44-40, heading into the final period.
Crossroads held their largest lead of the game at 56-47 in the fourth quarter, before Alameda went on a 6-0 drive. But the Hornets could not withstand the free-throw disparity in the game. The Roadrunners outscored the Hornets by six points at the free-throw line in their six-point win. Crossroads converted 19-of-27 free throws to Alameda’s 13 free throws.
Alameda senior Benno Zecic led the team with 16 points. Senior center Kingsley Obiorah scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Hornets.
Crossroads senior O’Neal was a terror for the Hornets the entire game. The 6’ 10” center scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. He also blocked five shots. The Roadrunners played a 2-1-2 zone defense with O’Neal, son of National Basketball Association legend Shaquille O’Neal, in the middle. The Roadrunners’ staggering defense stymied the Hornets all game. The Hornets’ shot just 18-of-53 from the field and four-of-20 from the 3-point line.
The loss does not diminish the accomplishments of the 2018 Hornets team. Alameda had never won a CIF NorCal regional playoff game before this season and won four en route to the state final. They finished with a 28-6 overall record and as one of the top basketball teams in the Northern California region. The game marked the final high school game for the 10 seniors on the Alameda squad.