SAN MATEO -- Despite being on the short end of the matchup in terms of size and athleticism, the Aragon basketball team led nearly all the way.
But Vanden went on an 11-2 run to close the game after Aragon point guard Alex Manu fouled out with 1:15 left and pulled out an 88-85 victory in the CIF Northern California Division III basketball playoffs.
"Manu is an outstanding player," Vanden coach Micheal Holloway said. "He was giving us trouble all night. Emotionally it gave us a lift when he fouled out."
Aragon (20-10) was holding on to an 83-77 lead when the senior point guard, who scored 26 points, picked up his fifth foul. Vanden (20-11) immediately started pressing and forcing turnovers, tying the score 85-85 on a free throw with 31 seconds left and taking the lead on another foul shot with 28 seconds left.
"You don't realize what he does for the team until he's gone," said Aragon coach Sam Manu, Alex's father.
Toby Liebergesell led Aragon with 29 points. His two free throws were the last points Aragon scored, giving the Dons an 85-80 lead with just under a minute left.
Kevin Hahn, Aragon's tallest player at 6-foot-3, scored 15. But Aragon's lack of depth hurt, especially after Kono Filimoehala-Egan, the team's 5-10 center, underwent shoulder surgery after the team's 94-93 triple-overtime win over Aptos in the Central Coast Section semifinals.
Vanden, with 6-8 Jansen Smith and 6-7 Jihad Woods pounding the boards, got multiple shots time after time.
"They got a lot of easy baskets," Manu said. "Their athleticism hurt us. It's hard to simulate, but then it was hard for them to simulate what we do."
Aragon pushed the ball at every opportunity, even after made baskets.
"We knew they'd play that way due to the size discrepancy," Holloway said.
But the Dons fell just short.
"This team is all heart with a lot of skill," Manu said. "Maybe not a lot of athleticism, but if you want us to play some ball, we're ready."
Half Moon Bay 67, Marshall 39: Case Dufrane and Corey Cilia scored 16 points apiece for Half Moon Bay, which will host Fortuna on Saturday in the Division IV quarterfinals.
Sacred Heart Prep 56, Colfax 52: Corbin Koch scored 19 points, and James McLean had 13 as the Gators held on for the Division IV victory.
Eastside Prep 73, Central Catholic 13: Eastside Prep, using a full-court press early, opened a 23-4 lead after one quarter then cruised to the Division V win.
Alexus Simon led all scorers with 22 points, contributing a game-high 13 rebounds and three steals. Brije Byers scored 20 of her 21 points in the first half. Destiny Graham scored 20 points, with seven boards, four steals and a block.
-- John Reid, MediaNews
Cardinal Newman 47, Menlo School 35: The Knights trailed 21-20 at halftime but were unable to prevent the visitors from pulling away in the second half of the Division IV game.