Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal Staff
Serra junior Trevor Brown powers to the hoop Saturday night as the Padres would go on to down visiting Montgomery, 59-54, in the Northern California Division II quarterfinals.
When Montgomery’s Kiel Long tipped home Alec Raven’s first miss of the night to give the Vikings a 33-23 third-quarter lead over the Serra basketball team Saturday, Padres coach Chuck Rapp called a timeout.
What was the message to his troops?
“Just keep cool,” Rapp said. “We’ve been here before. … We’ve been in tough, difficult situations (before).”
The Padres evidently took the words to heart. After cutting the Montgomery lead to 36-30, the Padres finished the third quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 40-38 lead going into the fourth quarter, where they held off the Vikings 59-54 in the quarterfinals of the Northern California Division II tournament in San Mateo, Saturday night.
Serra (22-8), the No. 4 seed, will go on the road to face No. 1 Folsom in the semifinals, Tuesday night. Folsom (30-2) routed No. 8 St. Ignatius 66-40, Saturday.
Sean Watkins, who battled foul trouble most of the night, came on strong in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of his team-high 18 points. Watkins made just one 3-pointer (in the first half), but used his muscle and tenacity to drive the lane and either get a layup or draw the foul.
“We liked that matchup and we went to it,” Rapp said.
Watkins scored eight of the Padres’ final 11 points, going 4 for 4 from the free-throw line over the final 15 seconds.
Danny Mahoney scored 13 points for Serra while Trevor Brown added 11 and Jake Killingsworth finished with eight points.
Serra had to overcome a hot start by Montgomery (26-6), who shot 60 percent from the field (12 for 20) in the first half. Raven was nearly unstoppable in the first half and Sam Averbuck couldn’t miss in the first two quarters, as the two combined to go a perfect 9 for 9 from the field in the opening half, with Averbuck knocking down a trio of 3-pointers.
Raven was even more impressive, showing his range and his game as he scored 10 of Montgomery’s 15 first-quarter points on 5-of-5 shooting.
“He got hot early,” Rapp said. “We had no answer for them.”
Raven cooled off considerably in the second quarter, making his only shot attempt to finish the half with 12 points and the Vikings leading 29-23.
Serra, meanwhile, struggled with foul trouble in the first two quarters as the three-man refereeing squad called a tight — one might say ticky-tack — first half. The Padres committed their seventh team foul, putting the Vikings into the 1-and-1 bonus with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Serra is used to the rough-and-tumble play of the West Catholic Athletic League, where one usually needs to be assaulted to have fouls called. Saturday, however, the refs were calling the smallest hand checks.
“It’s hard (to adjust),” Rapp said. “You get new refs (at the Nor Cal level) and the kids aren’t used to that (tight calls). We struggled with that in the first half.”
Despite the bushel of calls against Serra in the first half, Montgomery failed to take advantage as the Vikings shot just 10 of 24 from the stripe, including just 1 for 10 in the first half.
“That was big,” Rapp said.
In the second half, the Padres picked up their defensive intensity as the Vikings’ shooting returned to earth, finishing the second half making just 7 of 22 attempts.
Rapp said a team can’t count on a team cooling off. The Padres needed to go out and force the Vikings to shoot more poorly.
“You never assume (a team will cool off by itself),” Rapp said. “You have to cool them off by giving them contested looks.”
On top of limiting the Vikings defensively, the Padres also picked up the play of their offense, shooting 11 for 21 from the field over the final two quarters after a 10-for-24 performance in the first half.
After scoring 12 in the first half, Montgomery’s Raven added 14 more in the second to finish with a game-high 26 points.
Serra, however, offset that with a complete team effort over the final 16 minutes of the game.
“Tough game,” Rapp said. “It was a war and we just made a few more plays in the second half.”