After everything it has gone through this season, the bad losses and big wins, Archbishop Mitty is right where its star player expected the team to be -- still alive in its quest for a third consecutive state championship.
The Monarchs will return to Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on Saturday, site of some of their crowning moments during the Aaron Gordon era, to play Sheldon for the Northern California Regional Open Division championship.
The winner advances to the state title game a week later at Sleep Train.
It hasn't been a smooth ride for Gordon and the Monarchs. But despite a 35-point loss on national television in January to a powerhouse from Utah and a 21-point loss to Salesian just before Christmas, Mitty regrouped to turn this season into something special.
The biggest moment thus far came Tuesday when Mitty, in Gordon's final home game, held on in the final minutes to edge Modesto Christian 58-54.
An hour later, the Monarchs (27-5) learned they would not get a rematch against Salesian as Sheldon of Sacramento defeated the Pride in overtime.
So, instead, Sheldon (27-5) gets a rematch against Mitty, which beat the Huskies 71-65 in Sacramento in early December.
Sheldon was missing two impact players, guards Darin Johnson and D'Erryl Williams, in the first Mitty game. The Huskies have since gone on to become one of the great high school teams the capital city has produced.
The 6-foot-5 Johnson is
Mitty also wasn't at full strength in the first Sheldon game. Forward Brandon Farrell, who had 13 points against Modesto Christian, was injured.
"We're both completely different teams," Mitty coach Tim Kennedy said Wednesday. "Each team has gotten better just from going through the season. You can't really look at that game much for saying this is who we're going against."
Mitty has won 11 in a row since losing Feb. 2 at Serra -- its only loss to the Padres in four games. Sheldon will bring a nine-game winning streak to the title game, its last loss coming against Salesian on Feb. 2.
The Huskies like to get in transition and push tempo. Mitty's goal will be to slow them down, as the Monarchs did in the first half against up-tempo Modesto Christian.
"You have so many guys that you need to slow down," Kennedy said of Sheldon. "They have so many guys who can make plays and hurt you in multiple ways.
"We have to limit them to one shot and make sure they get contested shots because they have guys who can knock down threes and they've got guys who can get to the paint. And we need to take care of the ball."
Both teams were on the big stage last season. Sheldon beat Jesuit in the NorCal Division I final before losing to Mater Dei in the Division I state final. Mitty edged Newark Memorial in the NorCal Division II final and then rolled over La Costa Canyon to win a second consecutive state title.
Now, with the addition of an Open Division, Mitty and Sheldon meet for the regional championship.
For Gordon, the Monarchs are right where he expected them to be.
"I didn't expect anything less," Gordon said. "Back to NorCal. I've been saying it since day one that we're going to get back there. We got back, and now we've got to make two last pushes."
Girls Division II
There will be a send-off rally Friday at Lynbrook before the Vikings make the two-hour trip to Sacramento for their rematch Saturday morning against St. Francis.
Lynbrook coach Cynthia Ting noted that she has only seen a rally "in the movies and on TV shows. Never seen it at Lynbrook -- maybe academic rallies."
But that is what Ting's team has brought to the Lynbrook campus in its march through the Northern California Division II Regional -- excitement.
Lynbrook (24-5) will meet an equally fired up team for a berth in the Division II state championship game. St. Francis (23-8) has bounced back from its loss to Archbishop Mitty in the Central Coast Section Open Division final with NorCal victories over Dublin and Florin of Sacramento.
The Lancers reached the CCS final by rallying to defeat Lynbrook 37-27 in the semifinals. St. Francis trailed through three quarters but pulled away after grabbing the lead in the fourth.
"The interesting thing about St. Francis is they get contributions from everybody on the court," Ting said. "We can't just focus on one person."
Girls Division V
West Bay Athletic League rivals Eastside College Prep and Pinewood will play for the fourth time this season Saturday in a 10 a.m. start at American Canyon High School -- this time with a Northern California title and berth in the state championship game at stake.
No. 1 seed Eastside (22-8) beat Pinewood in all three previous meetings: 53-38 at Pinewood on Jan. 18, 47-34 at Eastside on Feb. 5 and 54-30 at Mercy-San Francisco in the WBAL playoffs on Feb. 16.
"We do know each other," Eastside coach Donovan Blythe said. "When it gets this time of year, there's nothing I can do. You can't change your offense. The kids just have to go out and play."
Eastside has the additional motivation of trying to win its first NorCal title and make its first trip to a state final. Eastside advanced to the NorCal final last year but lost to Brookside Christian of Stockton 55-38. This year, Brookside was included in the inaugural Open Division field.
No. 3 seed Pinewood (22-8), which beat No. 2 Valley Christian-Dublin 37-30 in the NorCal semifinals, has won four state titles.
Bay Area News Group's Glenn Reeves contributed to this report.