DUBLIN -- Campolindo High junior Yize Dong ripped an ace to touch off a Cougars celebration Saturday at Dublin High.
No. 1-seeded Campolindo took a tense third game to repeat as CIF Northern Region Division II champions with a 25-19, 25-22, 29-27 win over No. 2 Whitney-Rocklin, the repeat runner-up.
Undersized but resilient, the Cougars played typically stellar defense in rallying past the Wildcats in the second and third games.
"We're tough because we know we have to be tough," Campolindo coach Dave Chen said. "We're undersized in every aspect of the game, so we have to make it up with some other aspects, our defense and the tenacity of the team."
Whitney tied the dramatic third game 27-27 with a block, but Griffin Bell's kill gave Campolindo the lead and a sideout. Whitney called a timeout before Dong put the hammer down.
"Phew!" Dong said of his thoughts after the winning shot. "After I went into the timeout, I thought 'I want to go for this one,' and Dave said, 'Yeah, go for it.' When I hit that and it landed, I was thinking, 'Thank God that one went in.' "
Chen called the effort the Cougars' best of the season, considering of the adversity they overcame in the roller-coaster contest.
The Wildcats (32-6) held leads of 9-6, 11-8, 18-15 and 24-23 in the third game, but the Cougars (39-2) would not be denied.
Ryan First's kill off a Dong assist tied it 24-24, but after Whitney went ahead 26-25, Dong's kill and his block on Kalen Stewart-Harris put Campolindo ahead 27-26.
The Cougars, who have won four straight North Coast Section Division II titles, raced to a 6-1 lead in the second game, but the Wildcats tied it 10-10 before taking a 16-12 lead. Dong's kill later put the Cougars up 22-20. Whitney tied it 22-22, but Campolindo won three straight points.
In the first game, Campolindo's defense shined as it roared to a 19-10 lead. During one rally, Joe Worsley and First each made digs to save a point, which the Cougars eventually won with a Jack Eisner kill.
"They get a lot of balls that teams usually put down against other teams," said Stewart-Harris, who made nine kills. "We had them in the third set, but we just couldn't close it out with that one last point."