St. Mary’s beats up on Buffaloes, will face Monte Vista in Stockton for shot at state championship
St. Mary’s is headed to Delta College.
It doesn’t quite have the ring of the Arco Arena, the site of the higher division CIF Northern Regional finals, but the Panthers will take it. They beat an overmatched Amador (Sutter Valley) squad, 78-67, on Thursday night in a semifinal matchup, and will take on Monte Vista Christian in Stockton on Saturday at 3 p.m. The winner will then play the following Saturday at Arco in Sacramento for the state championship.
St. Mary’s lost in the semifinals last year, and this will be their first trip ever to the final.
The Panthers beat Amador soundly despite the fact that two starters sat for the entire first half. Forwards Jeremiah Fielder and Chase Moore violated team rules earlier this week, according to St. Mary’s head coach Jose Caraballo, and their punishment was to watch the first half from the bench.
The replacement starters, guard Terrence Boyd and forward Lorenzo Alexander, filled in nicely. Boyd was more aggressive with the ball than usual, driving to the hole several times, and he scored 13 first-half points and finished with 15 and five rebounds. Alexander used his considerable heft to muscle inside for eight points and eight rebounds.
“Terrence and Lorenzo stepped up real big tonight,” St. Mary’s guard John Sharper said. “It was hard playing without (Fielder and Moore), but we got through it.”
Boyd said he was concentrating on defense to start, and offense just came naturally.
“I just had to step up my game,” Boyd said. “I tried to play aggressive on defense, and that made me more aggressive on offense.”
As they have throughout the postseason, the Panthers leaned heavily on the scoring of shooting guard John Sharper, who poured in a game-high 28, including all four St. Mary’s 3-pointers. Point guard DaShawn Freeman added 13 points and six steals.
“DaShawn and John, they prove night in and night out that they’re great players,” Caraballo said.
After Amador took an early 2-0 lead, the St. Mary’s press took effect, causing five consecutive Buffalo turnovers in a 12-point run that put the Panthers up for good. Freeman had three steals in the stretch, and easily penetrated the lane on the slower Amador backcourt.
Amador’s leading scorer, forward John Meath, drew two fouls early in the game and sat for much of the first quarter. He came back in in the first minute of the second with his team down 20-14, but couldn’t stop the bleeding. The Panthers went on a 12-4 run upon his return, as the Panthers once again turned Buffalo turnovers into easy baskets. When Boyd stole an inbounds pass with 3.1 seconds left in the half and scored an easy layup, the top-seeded Panthers had a 43-25 halftime lead.
The halftime stats were almost compeletely lopsided in favor of the Panthers. They shot 50 percent from the floor, outrebounded the Buffaloes 19-13 and had 10 steals to Amador’s one. The only place the visitors were better was from the free throw line, where they were 13-of-16, while the Panthers were a miserable 8-of-16.
Moore and Fielder finally got into the game to start the second half, but Moore was apparently a little antsy, picking up four fouls in seven minutes and missing three shots. Other than a short St. Mary’s seven-point spurt, the quarter belonged to the Buffaloes, as they hit 9-of-15 from the floor and cut the Panther lead to 59-45. Meath hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to get his team within 12 points, but they wouldn’t get any closer until the final seconds of the game.
“We have the chance to represent the north in the state championship, and that’s our goal,” Caraballo said.
Sharper put the his own goals into a different perspective.
“We’re just getting a little farther every year,” the junior said.
He was asked what the Panthers would do for an encore if they win the state championship.
“We’ll have to win state again,” he said.