Pilots Reach State Finals Again

The St. Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) men’s basketball team used a defensive shutdown in the second quarter to power its way to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division V NorCal regional championship Saturday, March 22.

The Pilots downed Central Catholic of Modesto 54-42 in the regional final. The Pilots have now won the Division V regional final four years in a row. The victory also earns them a berth into the CIF Division V final tomorrow, March 28 where they will take on Renaissance Academy of La Canada, the Division V SoCal region champion.

What made the victory even more rewarding for SJND is the fact that it was a payback game. The Raiders defeated the Pilots earlier in the season 68-52 on the Pilots’ home floor Dec. 19. However, this go around was a much different outcome for the Pilots.

The Pilots put the contest away in the second period. The game was tied at 11 after the first quarter, but the Pilots’ defense put the hammer down in the second. The Pilots outscored the Raiders 18-2 in the period. The Pilots went on a 20-0 run during a span that stretched the second and third quarters. The Pilots’ defense proved to be just too much for the Raiders.

SJND incorporated a 2-3 zone in the quarter that stifled the Raiders offensive ability in the second period. The Raiders did outscore the Pilots in the third quarter 15-10, but the 29-13 halftime deficit was too much for Central Catholic to overcome. SJND scored 15 points to Central Catholic’s 14 in the fourth period.

Senior center Temidayo Yussuf paced the Pilots, leading them in scoring and rebounds. He put up 16 points and pulled down 19 rebounds in the victory.

 
“It feels good,” Yussuf said. “You would think after the fourth one, it’s the same feeling, but it feels a little bit better.”

SJND sophomore Esteban Lovato also scored 16 points including eight free throws in the closing minutes to close out the win. Central Catholic senior Joe Hamilton led the Raiders with 19 points.
Before the Pilots could play in the regional final they had to take care of Brookside Christian of Stockton in the regional semifinal on March 18. The Pilots won easily 71-51 in the contest.

With the two victories last week the Pilots will now play in its fourth straight CIF Division V state final and fifth in the last six years. The Pilots lost last year’s final to Horizon Christian of San Diego 47-46 on a three-pointer at the buzzer by Horizon’s Ethan Underwood. The Pilots are 1-3 in its four previous state finals appearances.

The Pilots’ opponent in the state final, Renaissance Academy of La Canada, defeated Trinity Classical Academy of Valencia 60-33, Saddleback Valley Christian of San Juan Capistrano 61-53 and View Park of Los Angeles 58-55 to win the SoCal region championship and play in the state final.

The CIF Division V state final will be played tomorrow, March 28 at 12 p.m. at the Sleep Train pavilion in Sacramento. The Pilots are 30-8 overall on the season.