SAN JOSE – The Archbishop Mitty High School boys basketball team was ahead of Palma-Salinas by 17 points at halftime on Friday night but Monarchs coach Tim Kennedy felt his team could have been a little bit crisper on the defensive side of the ball.
Then Mitty came out for the start of the third and displayed all of the characteristics of a defending champion and No. 1 seed.
The host Monarchs began the third quarter on a 14-0 run and overwhelmed Palma in the second half, cruising to a 79-40 win in the first round of the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs.
Nigel Burris and Derek Sangster both scored seven points in the third quarter when the Monarchs outscored the No. 8 Chieftains 29-6 to help earn their 13th straight win. Sangster had 16 points for the game as Mitty (15-1) advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals against No. 5 Half Moon Bay, which beat fourth-seeded Bellarmine 71-68.
“We knew they were a great three-point shooting team, and we gave up five threes in the first half,” Kennedy said. “We needed to clean that up, so I thought we did a better job of that in the second half. (Palma was) missing their biggest guy, so that was able to give us a size advantage.”
That’s an understatement. The Chieftains had just eight players available as two seniors were in Hawaii as a graduation gift and 6-foot-6 junior Joseph Finley, easily Palma’s tallest player, had a commitment to participate in a summer football camp. Their tallest player who saw regular playing time was 6-foot-1 Charles Kosta.
Without much size, a scrappy Palma team had to rely on its quickness and perimeter shooting.
“But they fought, they competed,” Kennedy said of Palma.
That gave the 6-foot-7 Burris, the 6-6 Sangster, and the 6-9 Arrish Bhandal carte blanche to basically do as they pleased inside. Burris has 12 points and Bhandal had 17, including 12 in the first half.
“We just tried to keep things simple, get inside, keep crashing the boards,” Kennedy said. “I was happy, especially in the second half. We were getting the shots we wanted and I think our size kind of wore them down.”
Kennedy said Mitty hasn’t had four straight days of practice since the start of the season. But the carrot is a chance to repeat as Open Division champs for the first time since the Monarchs won consecutive titles in 2013 and 2014. Mitty beat Bellarmine 44-41 in last year’s title game for its 12th section championship overall.
“It was brand new for the guys and we have six seniors who have graduated,” Kennedy said. “But their focus is to win another championship, so that’s helped, with their leadership, so that’s helped these young guys as well. They know what it takes mentally and physically.”
“It’s a time for us to connect a little more,” Burris said. “It’s a good situation for us. We’re away from school. No homework or anything like that. We can communicate a little more.”