St. Joe’s Takes State

Photo by Tomas Pineda

St. Joe’s Takes State

Members of the St. Joseph Notre Dame (SJND) men’s basketball team were able to wash the bitter taste of heart-breaking defeats in 2012 and 2013 out of their mouths by winning the 2014 California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division V state championship.

The Pilots made short work of Southern California’s Renaissance Academy of La Canada 57-32 last Friday at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

The Wildcats were no match for the defensive prowess of the Pilots. SJND jumped out to an 8-2 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back. Junior forward Lamont Banks scored four points in the Pilots’ opening run. The Pilots ended the first quarter with an 16-8 advantage. Freshman Jadé Smith’s floater early in the second quarter gave the Pilots an 18-8 lead. The Pilots led by at least double-digits for the rest of the contest.

The Pilots switched to a 2-3 zone in the second period and the Wildcats could not adjust. SJND held Renaissance scoreless in the second quarter, while the Pilots scored 13 points increasing its lead to 29-8 at halftime.

“We take really, really good pride in our defense,” said senior Temidayo Yussuf. “It’s our best weapon.”

The Wildcats went 0-11 from the field shooting in the second period and 4-23 in the first half.

“If you play against a zone that really gets after people like we do, it’s hard to score,” said SJND head coach Don Lippi.

The Wildcats were able to put up more of a fight after the halftime break, but never came close to making it a competitive game. The Wildcats scored eight points in the third quarter and doubled that with 16 points in the fourth quarter. However, the Pilots were still able to outscore Renaissance in the second half 28-24.

Once again SJND’s driving force was senior captain Yussuf. He led the Pilots with 21 points and 16 rebounds. In fact, Yussuf outscored the Wildcats 19-16 after three quarters by himself. 
Banks finished second on the team with 14 points; he also added seven rebounds. Guard Marquise Mosley led Renaissance Academy with 12 points.

The Wildcats shot 25 percent from the field throughout the game (10 of 40) and just over 11 percent from behind the three-point line (2 of 18).

The Pilots lost the last two Division V CIF championships in a row. They lost to Village Christian of Sun Valley 62-51 in 2012 and in heartbreaking fashion 47-46 on a last-second three-pointer at the buzzer to Horizontal Christian Academy of San Diego last year.

But with the victory last Friday, there were no signs of last year’s shocker when the final whistle blew. The players jumped in elation and hugged one another when the clock hit all zeros. This was the team’s fifth CIF state title and second in four years.

The team won state in 1991 and 1992 when Jason Kidd was the starting point guard and the top high school basketball player in the nation. It also won in 2004 and 2011 with Lippi as the head coach. The Pilots won the 2011 state championship 47-44 over St. Benard of Playa Del Rey. SJND’s five state championships are the most by any team in Northern California.

The Pilots end the 2014 season with a 31-5 overall record. Next year the Pilots will have to do without Yussuf as he will graduate this summer and attend Long Beach State University next fall. Pilot guards Jordan Dyson and Elijah Fisher will also be graduating this June. Even without Yussuf, a large bulk of the Pilots’ team production will be returning with players such as current-junior Lamont Banks, sophomore Esteban Lovato and freshman Jade’ Smith coming back.

Photo by Tomas Pineda James Bramble, Elijah Fisher and Marcus Harris huddle up during the CIF State Championship.