Senior forward Nikola Zivkovic and junior guard Johnny McWilliams combined for 35 points in San Marcos’ closely contested, 60-57, road victory over Riverside North in the opening round of CIF state playoffs Wednesday night.
North put forth a strong offensive effort in the final quarter, shooting seven-of-10 (70%) from the field. Junior guard CJ Clark shot three-of-three (100%), accounting for seven of the Huskies 17 points in that quarter. Their offensive push would pull them within two points of the Knights’ lead with under 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
However, clutch free-throw shooting and a pivotal drive to the hoop late from Zivkovic sealed the victory for San Marcos (26-3, 9-1 in Avocado-East League).
Zivkovic would nail all six of his field-goal attempts in the second half and finish with 14 points on the night.
“I just had the feeling tonight,” said Zivkovic. “I was getting the opportunities that my teammates were creating for me within the offense. And I just capitalized on them.”
McWilliams opened the contest on an offensive spark. He would open the contest with 10 first-quarter points, finishing the night with a game-high 21 on seven-of-10 shooting. McWilliams also racked up three steals defensively in the contest.
“He can really create [offensive opportunities] whenever he wants to,” said San Marcos Coach Dante Carey.
“When we need him to really get into it offensively he is able to. And when we need him to facilitate the ball, he’s capable of doing that. We saw him do both very well here tonight.”
Junior guard Deshaun Highler was the leading offensive performer for the Huskies (24-4, 10-0 in Inland Valley League), scoring a team-high 14 points.
“Ball movement was just not there tonight,” said Highler. “We’ve got to work on the little things… The small details are what killed us here tonight.”
North managed to have three other players score in double digits. Clark (10 points), Dikymbe Martin (10) and forward Christian Gray (13) all contributed offensively in the losing effort.
“We just didn’t execute tonight,” said Gray, who also accounted for six rebounds, three blocks, and a pair of steals. “We need to execute better in order to come out with a win.”
Martin, who stood as North’s premier offensive catalyst all season, was held to four-of-11 shooting (36.4%) in the contest. Martin only managed to shoot one-of-four (25%) in the fourth quarter.
The Knights advance to the second-round of the Division 1 CIF State Playoffs with Wednesday’s victory.
“[The victory] really means a lot… We were able to come up to Riverside and get the big win,” said McWilliams. “We were the underdogs and really weren’t expected to win. But we still managed to pull out the victory.”
— Angel Viscarra. Photo by Mason Cotterill