The San Luis Obispo boys basketball team finished runner-up to San Joaquin Memorial for the CIF Central Section Division 2 title after falling to the Panthers, 87-45, on Friday night at Selland Arena in Fresno.
The pressure was put on SLO early and often.
San Joaquin Memorial jumped out to a 12-3 lead right away in the first quarter after Panthers’ 6’11” center Braxton Meah converted a three-point play. Meah only scored nine points but hauled in 12 rebounds thanks to his tremendous height advantage over the Tigers.
With time winding down in the opening quarter, SLO’s Emilio Corona buried his second three-pointer of the game while fading away from his defender. Corona logged 24 minutes for the Tigers and scored eight points.
The second quarter is when San Joaquin Memorial really flexed its muscles.
One of the nation’s top juniors, Jalen Green, who was held to just one bucket in the first quarter, knocked down a pair of jumpers while Preston Kilbert and Justin Huelskamp attacked the Tigers inside and out. Huelskamp poured in 14 points for the Panthers and Kilbert scored 13 on 3-for3 from beyond the arc.
San Joaquin Memorial outscored SLO, 31-6, in the second quarter and led the Tigers 53-20 at halftime.
The Panthers kept the pedal to the medal in the second half.
Green finished his night with a layup to end the third quarter, which broke San Joaquin Memorial’s school record for points. Green scored a game-high 23 points.
SLO outscored San Joaquin Memorial in the fourth quarter, 14-9, but it wasn’t enough as the Panthers forced a running clock the rest of the way. Sam Ogden led the Tigers in scoring with 11 points, and Carson Leedom chipped in nine points with five rebounds.
It may not have been the outcome they wanted but the Tigers made history by becoming the first boys basketball team since 1952 to play for a CIF title.
“I couldn’t be more proud. I mean, last year’s team was amazing. We won 24 games and had great senior leadership, but this year is a completely different team with completely different makeup, DNA, and team chemistry,” San Luis Obispo head coach Jeff Brandow said.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these kids for sticking together. Our biggest goal was to play for a CIF championship and we did that tonight,” Brandow continued. “Obviously, we didn’t play very well. I got outcoached, and we got outplayed. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but one game doesn’t define our season. I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”
“Everything we went through as a team as a whole, the ups and downs, it was just fantastic how we all stuck together all year,” San Luis Obispo junior guard Emilio Corona added. “We were able to achieve the one goal we set for us this year. It was just great to see everyone come out. We had fun. It obviously wasn’t the result we wanted, but it’s a great accomplishment. I think we all have to hold our heads up high.”
All is not lost for the San Luis Obispo, which falls to 21-11 on the season, as the Tigers will embark on the CIF State playoffs which begin next week.