Capital Christians boys basketball team has been hearing it all season.
The small-school Cougars didnt deserve The Bees top ranking. Others said they werent one of the best teams in the state, let alone Northern California. Still others thought they would be thoroughly overmatched in the CIF Northern California Regional Open Division playoffs.
On Tuesday night in front of a capacity crowd of 1,700 at Capital Christian, the second-seeded Cougars silenced many of the detractors.
Showing little rust from an 11-day layoff, the Cougars battled defending NorCal Open champion Archbishop Mitty of San Jose play for play for three quarters, then ran the Monarchs out of the gym in the final quarter in posting a 70-57 win.
The Division V Cougars (28-3) move on to Saturdays 8 p.m. Open championship game at Sleep Train Arena against NorCal No. 1 Bishop ODowd (27-4) of Oakland, a 74-51 winner over Modesto Christian.
Leading Mitty 45-41 entering the final period, Capital Christian used its size and quickness to gather a number of explosive dunks, putbacks, steals and blocks in blowing past the tired Monarchs (27-5).
Point guard Tyler Jennings led the way for Capital Christian with 18 points, and 6-foot-9 Michigan-bound D.J. Wilson added 13 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. The Cougars quick guard trio of Marcelas Perry, Uchenna Iroegbu and Justice Shelton-Mosely combined for 31 points.
Connor Peterson led Mitty with 20 points, including four three-pointers, and Jp Rindfleisch added 13. But Capital Christian kept Mitty point guard Matt McAndrews in check. The senior had 32 points against El Cerrito but was held to seven on 3-of-13 shooting.
Our guys played their hearts out, said Capital Christian coach Devon Jones. We responded well when Mitty had that one run.
The Monarchs had an 11-2 run in the second quarter to go up 24-21 with 2:19 to play. But the Cougars bounced back to lead 29-24 at halftime and exchanged several leads in the third quarter before finally pulling away when Jennings hit a three-pointer and Wilson blocked Rindfleischs shot, then threw a long pass to Iroegbu, who completed the layup for a 45-41 lead after three quarters.
We feel we can play with anybody, Jones said. We have five senior starters, so they know that this is their last chance. Theyve got a chip on their shoulders, and they refuse to lose.
Getting to play ODowd again is the perfect scenario.
In January, ODowd beat Capital Christian by 26 points in a showcase game at Cal to wrestle the No. 1 NorCal ranking from the Cougars, who had earned it with a strong December start.
It was that loss and the Cougars otherwise non-threatening Golden Empire League and the Sac-Joaquin Sections Division V playoff schedule that left a lot of people incredulous about the Cougars prospects in the Open Division.
The Bishop ODowd game was a wake-up call, Jones said. We got punched in the mouth and didnt respond. We feel its going to be a different story this time.
Call The Bees Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.