Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Serra’s Trevor Brown shoots over Mitty’s 6-8 Ben Kone during the Padres’ 68-60 loss to the Monarchs in the CCS Open Division championship game Friday night.
SANTA CLARA — The Serra basketball team was playing in its fifth straight Central Coast Section championship game when the Padres took the floor against nemesis and top-seeded Mitty in the Open Division finals at Santa Clara University’s Leavey Center Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Padres, they’ll have to wait until 2015 to have another shot at winning their first CCS title since 2006 as Mitty rallied from an early deficit and then held off Serra at the end, 68-60.
It’s the Monarchs fourth straight CCS championship.
“It hurts,” said Serra coach Chuck Rapp. “We’ve been here before and we wanted to get over the hump.”
It’s the third time this season Serra (21-8) has lost to Mitty (25-4), including twice during West Catholic Athletic League play. And it was in similar fashion: the Padres start strong before Mitty, ultimately, wears them down.
Serra bolted out of the gate and staggered the Monarchs with a 13-2 explosion just over four minutes into the game, but Mitty recovered and started controlling the glass.
And getting the ball down to the post to 6-8 sophomore Ben Kone.
Kone was mostly unstoppable. He scored 16 first-half points and then wore the Padres down in the second half with 10 more. He also pulled down 11 rebounds.
“He reminds me of (former Mitty star and projected NBA lottery pick Aaron) Gordon. He’s just bigger and stronger than us,” Rapp said.
Mitty scored the first basket of the second half to take the lead and never give it back. The Monarchs kept the Padres at arm’s length the rest of the way, never leading by more than six points until the end.
Mitty left the door ajar midway through the fourth quarter, however, when point guard Matt McAndrews fouled out with 3:31 to play.
Instead of folding, the Monarchs ran the offense through Connor Peterson, who ran it to perfection as his bucket off the dribble put the Monarchs up 64-58 with less than two minutes to play.
“I thought we could ratchet up the pressure (with McAndrews out). I thought there might be a little opening (to steal the game)” Rapp said. “But Peterson is so solid.
“[Mitty is] a tough cover.”
Serra gave the Monarchs their best shot, however. With Danny Mahoney — who finished with 18 points — running the Padres offense, they jumped all over them early. After Kone had a tip in for the first points of the game, Serra reeled off 13 unanswered points, with Cory Cravalho draining a 3-pointer and slashing to the basket for a layup to lead the charge.
Mitty finally settled in and methodically started their comeback, with Kone doing the damage with six points over the final 3:23 of the first quarter to cut the Monarchs deficit to 21-13.
The quarter break gave the Padres just enough of a breather and they came out firing to start the second, hitting their first three shots of the quarter. Center Trevor Brown converted a three-point play, Sean Watkins nailed a 3 and Cravalho scored on a fast-break layup to give Serra its biggest lead of the night, 29-13, with 6:40 left in the half.
The Padres then went four minutes and two seconds without a point, as Mitty got back into the game with a 13-0 run to cut the Serra lead to 29-26 with 3:03 left in the half.
By the time the halftime horn sounded, Mitty had come all the way back and trailed 35-34.
Mitty scored the first six points of the third quarter to take a 40-35 lead and while Serra managed to tie the score three times in the quarter, the Padres could never pull ahead as Mitty managed to hold a 52-48 lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Padres could have been down a lot more if not for the play of Brown. He was the surprise offensive star for Serra, scoring 13 points and pulling down six rebounds while giving up six inches to Kone. He flipped in what only can described as a hook shot before knocking down a free-throw line jumper in the third quarter, tying the game at 42 and 44, respectively.
“We would have been in trouble (without Brown),” Rapp said. “Just a real credit to him. … He’s been an unsung hero.”
Serra got as close as two early in the fourth quarter, 54-52, but the Monarchs held off the Padres down the stretch.
“We had moments where we looked really good, where our offense was moving, looked good in transition,” Rapp said. “We just couldn’t really sustain it.”