Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Sequoia’s Chris Bene goes up for a dunk during the Cherokees’ 67-52 win over Monta Vista in the first round of the CCS Division I tournament Tuesday night in Redwood City.
At 6-5, Sequoia boys’ basketball player Chris Bene has the size to be a center. But on the Cherokees roster, he is listed as a guard/forward.
Bene used all his skills Tuesday night to help lead the 11th-seed Cherokees to a 67-52 win over unseeded Monta Vista-Cupertino in a first-round game of the Central Coast Section Division I tournament Tuesday night in Redwood City.
“Hopefully we make a run like last year,” Bene said, referring to the Cherokees advancing to the Division I quarterfinals last season.
As it stands, Sequoia will travel to No. 6 Palo Alto in a second-round Thursday night at 7.
Bene filled up the stat sheet for Sequoia (12-7), scoring a game-high 20 points, pulling down 13 boards and blocking four Matador shots. He also threw down two massive dunks — including one in the fourth quarter when he took an inbounds pass, raced up the right sideline, cut into the lane and off of one foot, rammed it home.
Bene was far from a one-man show, however. DJ Houston scored 10 points, all in the second half, while Jarrett Crowell added nine and Brady Stubblefield chipped in with seven.
The Cherokees came out flying to start the game, scoring 22 points in the first quarter. All the momentum on the offensive end, however, was tempered by the fact they committed six fouls in the opening eight minutes and Monta Vista (11-14) was shooting 1-and-1 nine seconds into the second quarter.
The Matadors managed to hit only 11 shots from the floor all game long, but their free-throw shooting kept them in the game. Monta Vista attempted 33 foul shots, making 27 of them.
“The flow (of the game) was up and down,” said Sequoia coach Fine Lauese. “We’d do something good on the offense end and then commit a foul on the other end.”
Monta Vista center Ramana Keerthi was the main beneficiary of all the Sequoia fouls as he was 13 for 17 from the stripe — including 12 of 15 in the first half as he finished with 18 first-half points.
In the first quarter, Keerthi scored 12 of the Matadors’ 14 points, with eight of those coming from the free-throw line.
In the second half, however, Keerthi was held to just 1 of 2 from the line as he finished the game with 19 points.
“I think we did a good job … being physical with him (in the second half),”Lauese said. “We dropped to our (2-3) zone and were able to control the tempo.”
The tempo was breakneck in the first quarter as the Cherokees raced out to a 22-14 lead, connecting on 9 of 15 shots from the floor.
They came back to earth in the second quarter, however. After starting the second period with a 10-2 run to take a 32-16 lead — their biggest of the game — they then went through a three-minute drought. Monta Vista outscored Sequoia 9-3 during that stretch and when Aditya Raju drained a 3-pointer, the Matadors trailed by 10 going into halftime, 37-27.
In the third quarter, Bene — who was virtually unstoppable when he had the ball in the first two quarters — all but disappeared. He stopped getting touches and the Cherokees struggled to put the ball in the bucket. Sequoia was outscored 15-9 with the Matadors going the final 4:50 of the quarter on a 13-2 run to cut its deficit to 46-42 going into the fourth quarter.
“Some quarters I take breaks,” Bene said, admitting he is still getting used to the fact of being on the floor almost the entire game.
Even though he wasn’t getting touches, he was directing teammates on where to be and where to run the offense.
“One of the things I’m not very good at is leadership. I’ve been working on it,” Bene said.
In the fourth quarter, however, both Bene and the Sequoia offense ramped back up and the Cherokees finished on a roll, scoring 21 points and pulling away from Monta Vista.
Sequoia opened the final period with a 13-2 run. Houston knocked down a jumper to push the Cherokees lead back to six, 48-42, and Crowell followed with a fall away jumper. Houston then converted a three-point play before Bene took over.
He missed his first shot of the quarter but grabbed the rebound and put it back in to push the Sequoia lead to 55-42 with 5:13 left. He then came back with a reverse layup for a 57-42 advantage and following a pair of Monta Vista free throws, Bene brought the house down with his coast-to-coast flush to put the Cherokees up 15 with 3:15 to play.
“It’s a good team win for us,” Lauese said.
In Division III action, No. 11 Terra Nova, No. 10 South City, No. 12 San Mateo and No. 9 El Camino all advanced to the second round Thursday. Oceana saw its season come to an end with a 76-52 loss to No. 12 Gonzales in the Division IV tournament.