- Basketball Boys
5 players in double digits as WCAL race intensifies
UCLA football coach Chip Kelly sat in the stands Friday night at St. Francis to watch four-star recruit Tyler Manoa and the rest of the Lancers tackle Mitty on the hardwood instead of the gridiron.
Also in attendance was San Jose State football coach Brent Brennan, a St. Francis alum, along with several members of his staff to make a recruiting pitch for Junior Fehoko.
It seems the Lancers are quite the hot spot with national signing day less than a week away.
“I guess,” St. Francis boys basketball coach Mike Motil said when asked about the high-profile figures in the gym. “They’re football guys, I don’t really know.”
St. Francis senior Logan Johnson already signed his national letter of intent months ago to play college basketball at Cincinnati, and it’s easy to see why the No. 8-ranked Bearcats covet the 6-foot-2 guard.
The Lancers pushed the tempo in the second half of an 81-62 victory over Mitty, with Johnson running the fast break to near perfection whenever he wasn’t breaking down the defense off the dribble.
“We started to find people better,” said Johnson, one of five Lancers to crack double digits with 17 points. “And when you have three, four, five shooters, it makes the game a lot harder to guard because you could dish it out. And I have anybody I can pass it and hit from the arc.”
in the topsy-turvy landscape of the West Catholic Athletic League, it didn’t get more up and down than this week for Mitty.
On Tuesday, the Monarchs (7-13, 5-5 WCAL) broke a 24-game winning streak in league belonging to first-place Bellarmine with a 67-56 win at home.
It was a different story on the road against St. Francis (16-4, 8-2), which finds itself one game behind in the standings.
“They were a determined team tonight and we didn’t have that same fight that I think we had against Bellarmine on Tuesday,” said Mitty coach Tim Kennedy, whose team trailed 34-29 at the half. “It led us to missing some 50/50 balls, and when you’re playing hard shots go in. And they were sharing the ball and getting some good looks. Credit to them for knocking those down.
“But they kind of controlled the tempo all night. And we kind of withstood it in the first half and kind of hung around by five points, then that third quarter was rough for us.”
St. Francis went on a 13-1 run in the first quarter and led 33-23 with less than two minutes left in the half, but both times Mitty managed to close the gap.
That wasn’t the case during a 27-point third quarter in which the Lancers drained half of their 10 treys, with four different players connecting from beyond the arc — Roy Yuan, Maurice Wilmer, Matteo Fontana and Lucas Lee.
“Hey, we teach our kids to shoot the basketball, they shoot it with confidence,” Motil said. “That’s just kind of how we roll. If we get an open shot, we take it. That’s our motto. I don’t want to sit around and have people turn over the basketball, right?”
“That speaks to our level of defense, too,” Johnson said. “We play in a press all game and we don’t get tired. We’ve got people that can come off the bench and go.”
Yuan tied for a game-high 19 points, igniting the student section with four backbreaking 3-pointers, the last one coming with 3:18 left in the game to make it 75-53.
But the loudest cheers seemed to come after steals by Johnson and Wilmer that led to a pair of uncontested dunks at the other end in the second half.
“Our sixth-man crew is great,” Johnson said. “We give them a lot of credit helping us out. It gets loud and rowdy every night.”
“The game is about energy,” Motil said.
Mitty sophomore Devan Sapp also finished with 19 points and four 3-pointers, while teammate Charles Meng scored all of his 12 points in the first half on another quartet of treys.
This marks an end to a five-game win streak by the Monarchs, who lost their first four WCAL contests during a 2-12 start to the season.
With only two weeks left, Mitty at the very least needs to split its last four games in order to qualify for the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“You don’t want get too crazy, but it’s desperation mode,” Kennedy said. “Where each game, I’ve said it before, it’s like we’re in a playoff game every night. So that’s where we’re at. We’re fighting for our lives to get into playoffs.”
“Mitty is a tough team, you can never count them out,” Johnson said. “That’s the crazy thing about the WCAL, is that on any given night anybody could beat anybody. We know that, and that’s why if you don’t come out ready to play, you will get beat.”