It was everything that we could have asked for—- players sacrificing their bodies, trash talking (from players and fans alike, mind you), and clutch shot after clutch shot. From the very beginning, the atmosphere was electric. Somewhere, Grant Napear was yelling, “If you don’t like that, then you don’t like CIF basketball!”
On Tuesday night, Cathedral’s circus tour made its way to Bishop Alemany to take on Chaminade for the San Fernando Valley Invitational Championship. The team known for its foreign stars in juniors Kobe Paras and Lucas Siewert proved once again that it truly is a force to be reckoned with. Though Filipino Phenom Paras (I’ll go ahead and take credit for that nickname) finished with just 11 points after being harassed by Chaminade’s relentless Cage all night long, the Phantoms still managed to escape with a 65-63 win thanks to a Milan Acquaah three at the buzzer.
To no one’s surprise, it was Michael Oguine who led the way for the Eagles, scoring 20 points about as effortlessly as one can. But it was Nick Henzgen’s 11 points in under three minutes in the third quarter that truly ignited the Eagles’ comeback.
After falling behind by what appeared to be an insurmountable 14 points early in the second half, Coach Todd Wolfson turned to his three-point specialist and Henzgen did not disappoint. After Paras was charged with a technical foul for the Phantoms, Henzgen nailed the two free throws. He proceeded to make three of his next four three-point attempts, igniting The Cage in the process. The dominoes fell shortly thereafter as shots were opened up for Oguine and his partner in crime, Jordan Ogundarian, who ended up with 16 points. Chaminade was clicking on all cylinders, leading by seven with just two and a half minutes remaining in the game. And then came the momentum shift —- Joel Loth fouled out and much to the displeasure of Wolfson, the Eagles were suddenly left without their best defensive big man for the rest of the game. It was the opportunity that the Phantoms needed and they didn’t let it go to waste.
With Loth relegated to the bench, Cathedral attacked the rim time and again and finally managed to trim the Chaminade lead to 63-62 with just under 30 seconds remaining. Wisely, Coach Will Middlebrooks instructed Acquaah to hold for the last shot, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan. A busted pick and roll caused Acquaah to create his own shot with ball-hawking freshman Michael Wilson draped all over him. The point guard pulled up from beyond the three-point line to knock down the three in not only Wilson’s face but those very same faces in The Cage that had been a thorn in Cathedral’s side from the opening salvo.
And don’t think he didn’t know that. Acquaah and his teammates were quick to run over to The Cage and give it a piece of their minds. There was a considerable amount of commotion from both sides but no tempers flared—- it was good-natured banter from two competing sides, nothing more. On this fine evening, the spirit of basketball was rekindled as March came early to Mission Hills. Don’t be surprised if these two teams meet up later down the road. Only next time, expect an even livelier atmosphere.