SACRAMENTO -- The St. Joseph Notre Dame High boys basketball team burned a photo on the morning of March 28 that captured the end of last year's CIF Division V state championship game, which the Pilots lost by one point.
The Pilots then came to Sleep Train Arena and torched Renaissance Academy-Altadena 57-32, claiming the Division V boys state title for the second time in four years.
"I just knew that I wanted to end today with a smile instead of a frown," said St. Joseph Notre Dame senior Temidayo Yussuf, who had a game-high 21 points and 16 rebounds. "We knew that coming in, we felt pretty good and we had planned pretty well."
That was evident from the start. The Pilots (31-5) took an 8-2 lead in the first few minutes of the game, with four of those points from junior Lamont Banks. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
St. Joseph Notre Dame has now won five CIF state boys basketball titles, the most of any school in Northern California.
The Pilots ended the first quarter with an eight-point advantage. When a Jade' Smith floater early in the second quarter gave the Pilots an 18-8 lead, they kept a double-digit advantage for the rest of the game.
Renaissance Academy (24-8) scored no points in the second quarter. The Pilots' 2-3 zone harassed the Wildcats into 0-for-11 shooting from the field in that quarter and 4-for-23 in the first half, as St. Joseph Notre Dame entered halftime with a 29-8 lead. Renaissance Academy shot 25 percent (10 for 40) from the field for the game.
"We take really, really good pride in our defense," said the Long Beach State-bound Yussuf, who also had two blocks in the game. "It's our best weapon."
The zone has been a staple for the Pilots all season. But even St. Joseph Notre Dame coach Don Lippi was surprised at how effective it was Friday.
"If you play against a zone that really gets after people like we do, it's hard to score," said Lippi, who also guided the Pilots to state titles in 2004 and 2011. "We knew where they were going to be."
Said Renaissance Academy coach Sid Cooke: "We had shots. We missed layups. I think it was a little bit jitters."
Conversely, St. Joseph Notre Dame shot 63.6 percent from the field in the first half and 61.4 (27 for 44) for the game. Yussuf finished 10 for 18 from the field and Banks was 7 for 9.
The Wildcats started the second half aggressively, driving to the basket and playing more physical than they had been in the first half. But they still had no answer for Yussuf, who scored nine points in the third quarter, which ended with a 41-16 Pilots lead. At the time, he had outscored the entire Renaissance Academy team 19-16.
The Wildcats also hit only 2 of 18 3-point attempts. Guard Marquise Mosley led Renaissance Academy with 12 points.
The Pilots didn't back off in the fourth quarter.
"We've seen teams come back from 20," Yussuf said. "We knew it wasn't over until the last buzzer rang."
And when the final buzzer sounded, the bad memory from a year ago was finished.
"That's all we thought about was what happened last year," Banks said. "Our whole focus the whole day was making sure that we don't have another moment like that, and make sure we won."