SACRAMENTO -- Aaron Gordon lived up to his word: Archbishop Mitty is going back to the state championship game.
Gordon delivered one of the special performances in Northern California regional championship history Saturday night, scoring 29 points and grabbing 22 rebounds to propel the Monarchs to a 70-50 victory over Sheldon of Sacramento in the first NorCal Open Division final at Sleep Train Arena.
Mitty advances to the state Open Division title game next Saturday at Sleep Train against Southern California champion Mater Dei.
It wasn't supposed to be so easy for Mitty (28-5) on Saturday. Sheldon brought a bevy of hype into the game, boasting a lineup that includes two players headed for San Diego State and one bound for Washington. The Huskies also were coming off an impressive overtime victory over Salesian, a team that defeated Mitty by 21 points in December and was ranked No. 1 in the state.
But Sheldon does not have the 6-foot-8 Gordon, and that was the difference.
"They have a lot of D-I players, but they just don't have enough height; that's what it came down to," Gordon said. "I was able to make shots over them."
Gordon, who made 14 of 24 shots, had said all along that he expected nothing less than a third consecutive state championship this season, even as the Monarchs suffered two ugly losses, including one on national TV, and five overall.
But as the season unfolded Mitty got better, and on Saturday the
"He always plays his best when the lights are shining brightest," Mitty coach Tim Kennedy said. "Here is another example -- Open Division, first time. He just finds a way to win. He's the ultimate competitor. He won't let his team lose. When everybody doesn't give him a chance or our team a chance, he finds a way."
Leading 29-23 at halftime, Mitty scored a third-quarter knockout, the highlight coming when Gordon brought a roar from the crowd with a monster dunk to stretch the Monarchs' lead to 44-28.
Mitty led 46-31 after three quarters.
"You never expect to beat a team like Sheldon by 20 points," said Kennedy, whose team beat Sheldon 71-65 in December. "But we executed our game plan, and they had a hard time knocking down shots."
As it did in the semifinals against Modesto Christian, Mitty got off to a sizzling start as Gordon won the tip and Brandon Abajelo cruised in for an uncontested layup.
Davis Messer followed with a jumper, and Connor Peterson swished a 3-pointer to give the Monarchs a lightning-quick 7-0 lead. But Sheldon (27-6) recovered in a hurry, answering with a seven-point spurt of its own.
Gordon dominated much of the first half, scoring eight points in the first quarter and six in the second. But he picked up his second foul with 1:10 left in the first quarter and managed to avoid another foul before halftime, although he came dangerously close on occasion. Sheldon coach Joey Rollings thought Gordon should have been called for at least one more foul, but his pleading did not convince the officials.
Ultimately, the outcome ended up being so lopsided, Mitty cleared its bench in the final minutes. Now, as Gordon expected, he is one win from capping his high school career with a third straight state title.
"If I can get three, that would be great," Gordon said.