The Archbishop Mitty basketball team has been challenged on a number of occasions this season. But having one of the best players in the nation in 6-foot-8 senior Aaron Gordon has proved to be a trump card time and time again.
Gordon went off for 28 points and 26 rebounds Wednesday night as the Monarchs fought off an upset bid by Archbishop Riordan and came from behind in the fourth quarter to pull out a 59-51 victory in the Central Coast Section Open Division semifinals at Independence High.
"Another day at the office," Mitty coach Tim Kennedy said. "Having him around gets you spoiled."
No. 1 seed Mitty will play No. 2 Serra at 8 p.m. Saturday at Santa Clara University for the championship. It will be the fourth time the rivals have played this season. Mitty won two of the previous three.
The Monarchs trailed 44-39 after three quarters but outscored Riordan 20-7 in the fourth quarter to pull out the win. Mitty trailed Soquel in the Open Division quarterfinals for much of the game before pulling it out at the end.
Having Gordon at crunchtime is a big reason why.
"He finds a way for us,'' Kennedy said. "He has a knack for getting to the ball at key times. He's been doing that for us for four years.''
Brandon Farrell got the fourth quarter started in the right way for the Monarchs with a three-point play. Connor Peterson tied it with a jumper. Then after two free throws by Oceana-transfer Chiefy Ugbaja put Riordan
Riordan tied it at 51 on a basket by Bobby Arenas, but a three-point play by Gordon at the 2-minute mark put Mitty on top for good.
Mitty (24-5) had an 18-8 lead after one quarter only to see Riordan close to 26-25 at halftime on a 15-2 run. The Crusaders led 44-39 after three.
A cause for concern?
"There was never a doubt in my mind," Gordon said.
Serra 54, Sacred Heart Cathedral 49: Serra was cruising with a 22-point lead in the third quarter against Sacred Heart Cathedral.
But before you knew it the Padres were in desperation mode, trying to stave off defeat as the Irish cut its deficit to 50-49 before four free throws in the final minute by Andre Miller and Henry Caruso provided the final margin.
Caruso led the Padres with 24 points, going 14 of 15 at the foul line.
"Henry made big plays at big times," Serra coach Chuck Rapp said. "That's what big-time players do. He's just been an incredibly consistent, steady player for us."
Jacqui Biggins got Serra off to its hot start by making four 3-pointers in the first quarter.
"Biggins is a big-time perimeter shooter," Rapp said. "When he gets going he gives us that fifth gear."
Biggins finished with 17, after having 23 in Serra's Open Division quarterfinal win over El Camino.
"In the postseason it's not about individual numbers," Biggins said. "It's all about winning a championship. Everyone on the team has bought into that."
Bellarmine College Prep 60, Evergreen Valley 46: Grant Vermeer scored 21 points to lead the No. 1 seed Bells (18-9). Bellarmine will play No. 3 Santa Teresa, a 54-46 winner over Carlmont, on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Santa Clara High for the Division I title.
Isaac Gayles added 13 points for Bellarmine. Guru Sanghera paced Evergreen Valley (21-6) with 13 points.
Burlingame 53, Mills 32: The Panthers opened a 32-14 lead at halftime and coasted to the win. They will play Santa Cruz, a 49-48 winner over top seed St. Ignatius, for the Division III title at Foothill College on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Point guard Mikael Floro-Cruz led Burlingame (20-8), which has won 15 of its past 16 games, with 20 points. He knocked down six 3-pointers. Connor Haupt added 15 points. Joseph Worku led Mills (15-11) with 13.