Never trailing for a single second in the ball game, the Mission Bears held on to their lead against the Lowell Cardinals on Wednesday with a 66-51 score in the AAA semifinals.
Although there were moments when it seemed the Bears were going to have an extra run to make this a blow-out game, the team never got into a rhythm as the Cardinals kept on pressure.
“We kept it coming. We kept coming hard and strong. That what we got to do,” said senior Shaq Fisher as he reached for his duffle bag shortly after team handshakes.
The first and only tie of the game came at the 7:40 mark in the first quarter. As Mission slowly built its lead in the first half, the closest the score ever got was with 33 seconds left in the first quarter, when the scoreboard showed 14-10 Mission.
A 17-10 run, however, made it difficult for the Cardinals to catch up. The half concluded with a buzzer-beating bank shot by Fisher from 30 feet, putting the score at 34-22. But the Cardinals were determined to make things uncomfortable for the Bears in the second half.
With Mission building its lead to 20 points with a 44-24 score at the 4:51 mark, it seemed to many that the Bears would cruise through this semifinals match-up. However, Lowell caught fire with a 13-2 run capitalized by four straight three-point baskets to end the third frame. Mission’s lead dwindled to single digits by the start of the fourth quarter.
The last quarter failed to live up to the momentous third, as the Bears took advantage of Lowell’s interior defense by constantly driving in and earning multiple trips to the charity stripe.
“We were able to pass the ball. Be unselfish, play good defense and knock down our free-throws,” senior big man Miles Prescott said, reflecting on his team’s performance.
The Bears will play the Marshall Phoenix, who clinched their championship berth over the Lincoln Mustangs earlier in the day.
The AAA champion will be decided on Friday, March 2, at the Kezar Pavillion, starting at 5 p.m. sharp.
The quest for first-place gold is only 32 minutes away. The last time these two teams faced off against each other was a wire-to-wire match-up at Mission High School that resulted in a go-ahead bucket by Marshall guard Mizell Parker. Mark Alexander dominated the floor with 30 points, 20 rebounds and 7 blocks. Despite that memory, the Bears are confident.
“We’re just going to play our game, full-court and a hundred miles an hour,” said Mission head coach Arnold Zelaya.
“Hopefully we can wear them out,” he added. “They’ve got a thin bench, but they’re playing really well right now, so the goal is to just try to keep running.”
“We’re going to go all out! Championships, we can’t do anything but try,” said Prescott.