AMERICAN CANYON -- Temidayo Yussuf and the St. Joseph Notre Dame boys basketball team advanced to its fourth straight CIF Division V title game after beating Central Catholic-Modesto 54-42 on Saturday in the Northern regional final at American Canyon High.
"It feels good," Yussuf said. "You would think after the fourth one, it's the same feeling, but it feels a little bit better."
The Pilots (30-5) will face Renaissance Academy-La Canada in the championship Friday at noon at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Yussuf scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to help St. Joseph, which has now made the state championship game five times in the last six years under coach Don Lippi.
Last year's visit ended up with Horizon Christian-San Diego's Ethan Underwood hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat St. Joseph 47-46.
Such an ending would be unforgettable enough, but Lippi has a picture of it in the St. Joseph gym. A big one. To remind his team what it felt like.
"It's all blown up," Lippi said. "It's in a case. It shows our feeling when that shot went in. Some people say that it was abusive for me to do that. Because every time you walk into the gym, you see it. But to me, it reminds me, that's why I coach so hard this year. I've got to make up for that."
On Saturday, the Pilots put together a 20-0 run that lasted most of the second quarter and into the third. Great defense was the key, with St. Joseph using its 2-3 zone to discombobulate the top-seeded Raiders (27-7). Central Catholic had received the top seed mainly because it had beaten the Pilots in December in Alameda.
Esteban Lovato also had 16 points for St. Joseph, including hitting eight consecutive free throws in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Joe Hamilton led the Raiders with 19 points.