By coach Frank Knight's own admission, the Moreau Catholic High boys basketball team has arrived at the big stage earlier than expected.

The Mariners, without a senior on their roster, will face Bishop Montgomery-Torrance on Saturday at noon in the CIF Division IV state title game at Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena.

In a season in which Moreau Catholic captured its first North Coast Section title in school history, it's now preparing for its first state title game appearance. The Mariners are looking to duplicate what their girls team did in 1992 when it won the Division II state title on the same floor against the same opponent. Moreau beat Bishop Montgomery 73-66 in double overtime that year.

Knight has guided this team to a quick ascension since the former Saint Mary's College star took the job after 10 years at his high school alma mater Fremont-Oakland.

"We knew it would take a while, but we're here. We've got a good group of kids," Knight said. "People thought I was crazy when I took this job. I had people calling me, 'Frank, what are you doing? Stay at Fremont!' But I believed in the principal at the time Lauren Lek and (president) Terry Lee. We knew we could eventually bring it here, and I'm excited that I get to lead the guys there."

Moreau Catholic starts two freshmen and three sophomores and has talent that will have college coaches flocking to the Hayward campus over the next several years. Leading the way is 6-foot-1 freshman guard Damari Milstead, who averages 15.8 points per game, and 6-5 sophomore Oscar Frayer, who averages 14.4 points and 10.3 rebounds.

"It's not a fluke that we're here," Frayer said. "We feel like we've worked our hardest this whole season. We've pushed each other on and off the court."

Bishop Montgomery is similarly constructed with young, athletic guards. The Knights have only one senior in talented Long Beach State-bound point guard Justin Bibbins, and he's complemented by 6-3 junior Stephen Thompson Jr., who owns Pac-12 offers.

"We've got to keep our turnovers way down," Milstead said. "Whoever has the ball most is probably going to win this game."

To better prepare, Knight rented Santa Clara's Leavey Center for practice Wednesday so his players could experience shooting in a larger arena with depth perception challenges.

Knight knows the challenge of playing in an NBA arena for the first time. His Fremont High team lost the state title game in overtime in 1995 to Mater Dei-Santa Ana at the then-Oakland Coliseum Arena. Knight hit a dramatic 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, but poor early shooting buried the Tigers in an early hole.

"I still remember that," Knight said. "We stepped on the floor and not only seeing the color commentator and the play-by-play guy and the cameras all of a sudden, I remember the courts seemed like they were on the opposite ends of the moon."

Visit www.contracostatimes.com/high-school-sports or www.insidebayarea.com/high-school-sports to see video interviews with Moreau Catholic's players and coaches.