HAYWARD -- In a matchup of Bay Area high school basketball heavyweights Saturday night, Salesian and Jabari Bird simply were too much for Aaron Gordon and Archbishop Mitty.
Two-time defending Division II state champion Mitty raced out to an early seven-point lead. But once the cushion dissolved, Salesian, the reigning Division IV state champ, never looked back as the Pride cruised to a surprisingly easy 72-51 victory in the first Catholic Schools Winter Classic at Cal State East Bay.
Salesian led by eight points at halftime and knocked out Mitty with a 22-2 run to start the second half.
Mitty came into the game ranked No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, one spot ahead of Salesian.
But the showdown ended up being a mismatch, one that sent fans headed for the exits midway through the fourth quarter as Salesian (7-1) opened a 66-36 lead.
Asked if he could have imagined such a one-sided outcome, Bird said, "I only dreamed of it. I never imagined it would be like this. We came out in the third quarter and went on that run. It felt amazing."
Bird led Salesian with 19 points and nine rebounds. Aaron Gordon led Mitty with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
"We just didn't come out ready to go on defense," Gordon said. "That's the main thing. At halftime we were only down eight. They come out and got three quick buckets on us and put us away."
The matchup brought a near capacity crowd to the Hayward school and a handful area
The first half was entertaining as both Bird and Gordon -- two of nation's top players -- provided enough highlights to fill a reel.
At one point, Bird stole the ball from Gordon underneath the basket at one end and glided for a dunk at the other.
Moments later, Gordon soared above the rim -- and a pack of Salesian defenders -- on an inbounds pass and dunked it with force.
But the highlights for Mitty (3-2) were few and far between.
"We just didn't come out ready," said the 6-foot-8 Gordon, who has narrowed his college choices Arizona, Kentucky and Washington.
It hardly looked that way in the opening minutes, however.
Mitty led 9-2, forcing Salesian to call a timeout. The Pride responded, scoring the next 12 points to end the opening quarter with a 14-9 advantage.
During the timeout, Salesian coach Bill Mellis told his players, including Bird, that they were playing too tentatively and to play as if it were just another game.
His team -- and Bird -- heeded the call.
"I came back into the game, I got a few easy buckets, a couple of free throws," Bird said. "My teammates had a real great game, had my back tonight."
Salesian stretched the lead to 10 in the second quarter before taking a 31-23 lead into the locker room.
But any opportunity for a dramatic second half ended in the first few minutes of the third quarter. Jermaine Edmonds Jr. scored two easy baskets, then Mario Dunn scored, followed by two baskets by Sean O'Neal.
Game over. Dunn finished with 15 points and Edmonds 13.
When it was over, Gordon and Bird, AAU teammates the past three summers, exchanged pleasantries at midcourt.
"At the end of the day, he's still one of my friends," Bird said. "I didn't really have too much trash talk. Hopefully I can see him again later in the year."
Catholic Schools Winter Classic
Cent. Catholic-Modesto 57,
St. Elizabeth 19
Archbishop Riordan 79, Moreau Catholic 63
St. Mary's-Stockton 65,
St. Francis 52
St. Patrick-St. Vincent 73, Sacred Heart Prep 54
St. Joseph Notre Dame 46
Salesian 72, Mitty 51