Pilots Men’s Basketball Earns Regional Title


The St. Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) men’s basketball team advanced to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Div. V championship after a pair of victories last week. It was the Pilots’ 11th NorCal Championship.

The Pilots will face St. Bernard of Playa Del Rey today at 12 p.m. at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. 

In the NorCal Div. V semifinal, SJND downed Urban of San Francisco 58-41 on March 15, in a much more competitive contest than the final score indicates. The Pilots managed to obtain a 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. The two teams quickened the pace offensively in the second, but the Pilots could not gain a sizable distance. They outscored the Blues 20-15 to take a 33-25 lead into halftime.

Urban shrunk their deficit to 42-37 at the end of the third with stellar defense. They held SJND to just nine points in the third quarter. That is when the SJND defense came alive. The Pilots outscored the Blues 16-4 in the final quarter to put the game away.

The Div. V NorCal final was one of the craziest games of the year. The Pilots needed three overtimes to beat Stuart Hall of San Francisco 67-58 on March 19. This was the longest overtime game in NorCal Championship history, according to CIFstate.org records.

The Pilots got off to a solid start ending the first quarter with a 17-11 advantage. The Pilots also edged the Knights 12-10 in the second to hold a 29-21 lead at halftime. However, the Knights switched its defense in the second half, which led to good results. The Knights employed a triangle-and-two defense where two players are assigned to two offense players at all times and the other three defenders are in a zone defense that resembles a triangle. The two defenders were assigned to junior Pilot guards, Darne Duckett and Jadé Smith, SJND’s top scorers. The Blues held the Pilots to just 10 second-half points, including two points in the fourth quarter, while employing this defense. The two teams ended regulation tied at 39. 

Fatigue started to set in with the two teams during the overtime periods. Both team scored just five points in the first overtime. The Pilots saw themselves down 53-49 with 45 seconds left in the second overtime period. That’s when SJND’s two playmakers stepped up. First Duckett scored on a coast-to-coast layup. On the ensuing inbounds, Smith stole the pass and drove for a layup to tie the score at 53. 

The Knights’ best player Zeke Campbell fouled out early in the third overtime essentially ending Stuart Hall’s chances. The Pilots outscored the Knights 14-5 in the period.

Smith finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and seven steals, while Duckett had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven steals. Campbell led the Knight with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

The win brings SJND’s record to 25-9 overall before the state final. The state championship against St. Bernard will be SJND’s second time meeting the Vikings in the CIF Div. V final. The Pilots beat the Vikings 47-44 in the state final in 2011. 

With a win this would be SJND’s sixth state championship and second state championship in three years. They beat Renaissance Academy of Altadena 57-32 in 2014.