AMERICAN CANYON -- Moreau Catholic High School opened in the fall of 1965. The modern California Interscholastic Federation basketball tournament began in 1982. In that time, the Mariners' boys basketball team has never had the opportunity to play for a state championship.
Moreau Catholic jumped out to a big lead over Salesian, before holding off the Pride for a 61-52 win Saturday in the CIF Division IV boys Northern regional championship game at American Canyon High School.
The Mariners will play either Cantwell-Sacred Heart or Bishop Montgomery-Torrance in the Division IV state championship next Saturday at noon at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Moreau Catholic coach Frank Knight, in his fourth season with the Mariners, said the game would be a milestone for the program. But he quickly changed the subject back to his players.
"Our sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth guys won this game today," Knight said, naming Terrell Brown, Ryan Regner, Tyler Kingenbeck and Alex Johnson.
It's hard to argue. Moreau Catholic's Brandon Lawrence picked up his third foul with 12.9 seconds left in the first quarter. Big man Oscar Frayer would join Lawrence on the bench in the second quarter, also with three fouls. Salesian (23-15) held a 12-7 lead after the period ended. The top-seeded Mariners looked like they were in trouble.
Instead, they turned up the pressure. The Pride couldn't handle the pressure defense and ended up committing 21 turnovers in the game. Worse, on several occasions, Salesian had a man open underneath the basket but ended up fumbling the pass away. By halftime, Moreau Catholic led 25-19 and in the third quarter, the Mariners built the lead up to 40-21.
"They went on a run without those two guys on the floor and that's what great teams do," Salesian coach Bill Mellis said. "If anything, they got a little bit quicker"
Lawrence and Damari Milstead ended up leading Moreau Catholic with 15 points apiece. Brown and Frayer added 11 points each. Dvan Molden pulled down 10 rebounds.
Salesian was led by Jonathan Galloway's 19 points and 10 rebounds. De'Angelo Hernandez added 11 points.