Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Serra's Sean Watkins knocked down a crucial 3-pointer in the fourth quarter as the Padres held off Bellarmine 47-33 in the first round of the WCAL tournament.
Because the Serra basketball team is so perimeter oriented, the Padres have lived and died with their outside shooting this season.
Tuesday, in the first round of the West Catholic Athletic League playoffs against visiting No. 7 seed Bellarmine, the second-seeded Padres managed to knock down just 15 of 52 shots.
While Serra may have struggled offensively, it’s defense was just fine. The Padres held the Bells to just 23 percent shooting from the field — 10 of 44 — as Serra survived a fourth quarter surge by the Bells to post an ugly 47-33 victory.
“It wasn’t pretty. We never play well (in this tournament opener) game,” said Serra coach Chuck Rapp. “We got it done. At this point, it’s win and advance.”
Serra will now host the winner of No. 6 St. Francis/No. 3 St. Ignatius Friday at 7 p.m. in the WCAL semifinals.
Serra (19-6 overall) held a comfortable double-digit lead for most of the game. In the fourth quarter, however, the Padres, who led 37-23 going into the final eight minutes, went more than five minutes without a point as Bellarmine (9-15) opened the period with a 8-0 run, cutting the Serra lead to six, 37-31, with 3:51 to play.
But then up stepped Serra senior guard Sean Watkins, who drained a 3-pointer from the left corner to push the lead back to nine, sparking a 10-2 run to end the game.
“That was a big 3. That’s what senior guards do,” Rapp said. “He delivered when wee needed it.”
Watkins finished the game with 10 points, while backcourt mate Danny Mahoney scored a game-high 12 — but only three in the second half.
The Padres were picked up by the play of their supporting cast, however, as a total of five players scored six points or more. Jimmy Wohrer chipped in with nine points, Jake Killingsworth added eight and Cory Cravalho finished with six.
While the Padres struggled all night with their shooting, their defense was in lockdown mode. They forced six Bellarmine turnovers and also came up with 12 steals. They also held their own on the boards against the taller Bells, finishing with 30 rebounds compared to 38 for Bellarmine.
“the defense was definitely the difference,” Rapp said. “Our pressure defense bothered them at times.”
Serra never trailed, but Bellarmine kept it close in the first quarter. With the Padres leading 6-2, Bellarmine’s Amador Nazarov nailed a 3-pointer to trim the Bells’ deficit to 6-5 with 3:58 left in the opening period.
Serra responded with a a 3 from Killingsworth which jump-started a 7-0 run to push Serra’s lead to 13-5 and the Padres led 13-7 after one period.
The Padres opened the second quarter with a 7-0 spurt, with Mahoney converting a layup off a steal and draining a 3. A Watkins dribble-drive layup pushed the Serra lead to 20-7 with 5:25 to play in the first half.
Watkins then ended the first-half scoring for the Padres by drilling a NBA-distance 3 to put his team up 27-15 at halftime.
Serra continued its tenacious defense in the third quarter, limiting the Bells to just eight points and when Killingsworth knocked down a 3 just before the quarter buzzer, Serra was up 14, 37-23, going into the final eight minutes.
The Padres withstood the Bells’ fourth-quarter run, however, and advanced to Friday’s semifinal game.
“We had to scrap through it,” Rapp said.