Salesian High freshman Marquel Johnson sank a 3-pointer from the right wing to beat the final buzzer and give the eighth-seeded Pride a 60-59 victory over No. 1 seed El Cerrito in a Tri-County Athletic League playoff semifinal game Thursday.

It was only the third loss of the season for the Gauchos (25-3). El Cerrito was ranked third in this week's Bay Area News Group East Bay boys basketball poll, and Salesian was ranked 14th.

"This has got to be our biggest win (this season) so far," Salesian coach Bill Mellis said.

The Pride (17-12) will face No. 3 seed St. Joseph Notre Dame (23-5) at Albany High on Saturday in the championship game. The tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Salesian fell behind 22-5 to start the game, but battled back and trailed by only six points at halftime. El Cerrito held a 50-42 lead at the end of the third quarter before the visiting Pride outscored it 18-9 in the final period.

Johnson and Bernard Ward both paced Salesian in scoring with 18 points apiece. Teammate Brandon McGhee added 11 points. El Cerrito was paced in scoring by Tyrell Alcorn with 15 points, and teammate Anthony Sullen added 12 points.

Thursday TCAL playoffs Semifinal Salesian 60, El Cerrito 59

Salesian (17-12)

Johnson 7 1-1 18, Ward 5 8-8 18, Dunn 4 0-0 8, McGhee 4 2-2 11, Toailoa 0 0-2 0, Galloway 2 1-2 5. Totals 22 12-15 60.

El Cerrito (25-3)


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Walton 4 0-0 11, Carleton 1 1-2 4, Alcorn 5 4-7 15, Pridgett 3 2-4 9, Sullen 4 3-7 12, Griffey 0 2-2 2, James 1 0-1 2, Banks 2 0-0 4. Totals 20 12-23 59.

Salesian          7          21          14          18--          60

El Cerrito          22          10          18          9--          59

3-point goals: Johnson 3, McGhee, Walton 3, Carleton, Alcorn, Pridgett, Sullen. Highlights: S -- E'Denchukwu 8 rebounds. Saturday: Championship, Salesian vs. St. Joseph Notre Dame at Albany, 5 p.m.