SJND Edges Branson for Division Title

The St. Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) men’s basketball team’s North Coast Section (NCS) Division V title bid came to a controversial, but successful close last Saturday, March 8 with a 49-48 victory over Branson of Ross.

SJND freshman Jade Smith made two free throws with 0.2 seconds left in the final period to put the Pilots ahead of the Bulls for good. But the foul that led to the free throws was heavily disputed by the referees and opposing coach. With SJND down 48-47 with less than 10 second remaining, Smith rebounded his teammate Marcus Harris’ missed three-point attempt and was fouled by Bulls senior John Broderick while attempting the winning basket.

However, the clock expired as the foul was committed. Members of the Bulls team began to celebrate, but the three referees and the official who sits at the scoring table huddled for more than a minute to determine the outcome. The referees decided to put 0.2 seconds back on the clock and grant Smith two free throws. Smith calmly made both free throws with ease.

"They’re just regular free throws," said Smith.

With two tenths of a second remaining, the Bulls did not have enough time by rule to make a basket and the game was essentially over.

"I did not see a foul," Branson coach Bret Tovani said. "I heard the horn before I heard anything else."

SJND led for most of the contest, building a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. But the Bulls fought back, going ahead when Branson sophomore Henry Feinberg hit a three-pointer with 24 seconds left to give the Bulls the 48-47 lead.

SJND senior Temidayo Yussuf led the Pilots with 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists. This is SJND’s fourth straight NCS Division V championship and the second time they defeated Branson for the section title. They defeated the Bulls 47-36 in the finals back in 2012. The game was played at Albany High.

With the victory the Pilots (27-5 overall) received a first-round bye in the California Interscholastic Federation Division V Northern California regional playoffs. The Pilots first game will be March 15 against the winner of Pinewood of Los Altos Hills and Forest Lake Christian of Auburn.