SJND Pilots Take State Championship Title

Chris Pondok The SJND Pilots celebrate winning the California Interscholastic Federation Div. V championship after the game. It’s the Pilots second state title in three years.

 

The St. Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) men’s basketball team capped off its 2015-2016 season with a 55-50 victory over St. Bernard of Playa del Rey in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Div. V. title game.

The Pilots won the back-and-forth tilt with a total team effort, including crucial made free throws from an unlikely source. SJND came out the gates firing from downtown. The Pilots scored 12 of its 14 first-quarter points off of four 3-pointers. The team would go on to make six 3-pointers. The Pilots held a slim 14-13 lead after the first quarter.

The Pilots were able to stretch its small lead heading into halftime with a late push. SJND was unable to break away from St. Bernard for most of the second period. They led 25-24 in the waning minutes of the period, but finished the quarter on a 6-0 run. They outscored the Vikings 17-11 in the period to gain a 31-24 at the half.

Both teams scored 11 points in the third period, which setup a crazy finish in the fourth quarter. The Vikings were able to tie the game at 44 with 5:53 left. SJND led 49-48 with less than two minutes remaining when SJND junior Jadé Smith hit a free throw to make it 50-48 with 1:19 left. Pilot freshman Adam Campos made a layup with 37 second left to give SJND a 52-48 lead. St. Bernard senior Robert Fuller stole the ball and scored with 21 seconds left to cut the lead in half. So the Pilots put the ball into the hands of its point guard Smith. The Vikings fouled Smith which stopped the clock with 11 seconds left. However, Smith was fouled hard on the play and had to be examined by the trainers. 

Because Smith needed the trainers’ assistance, he had to exit the game by rule. SJND head coach Don Lippi was forced, by rule, to insert someone from the bench to attempt the two free throws. Lippi elected freshman Kobe Kiener to attempt the crucial free throws.

With 11 seconds left and SJND clinging onto a 52-50 lead, the 14-year-old Kiener stepped to the free throw line. Kiener calmly sunk in both free throws — his only points of the game — to make it a two-possession lead and theoretically end the game. 

“I was pretty relaxed,” said Kiener after the game. “I have been working on my free throws for a few weeks and they have been dropping.”
Campos made another free throw before time expired.

This was the Pilots’ second CIF basketball state title in three years and sixth overall. This was also the second time SJND beat St Bernard in a state final. The Pilots defeated the Vikings 47-44 in 2011. It was also Lippi’s 800th career win. 
“I never made a basket in 37 years. I’ve never defended anybody in 37 years,” Lippi said. “Good players make good coaches.”

Smith led the team with 21 points. He also led the team with 11 rebounds. Guard Darne Duckett chipped in 14 points, all in the first half, and center Campos added 12 points.

Senior guards Julian Ross and Fuller both scored 15 points for the Vikings. Ross also grabbed eight rebounds.

The Pilots finished the season with a 26-9 overall record.

 

Chris Pondok SJND coach Don Lippi instructs his players during a timeout.