PUBLISHED: March 9, 2019 at 8:10 pm | UPDATED: March 10, 2019 at 6:29 am
SACRAMENTO — High school boys basketball teams this young are not supposed to be so polished and certainly not so successful.
But there Campolindo was Saturday, doing a masterful defensive job on a high-scoring opponent and getting big basket after big basket from a freshman and a sophomore.
The baby Cougars completed their run through the Division II playoffs with the program’s first state championship, beating Colony of Ontario 55-40 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
Colony was averaging 71.8 points per game.
Aidan Mahaney, a 6-foot-2 freshman with free-flowing hair and talent beyond his years, and Emmanuel Callas, a 6-4 sophomore, had nearly identical stat lines for Campolindo. Each scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Campo (27-7) took control before the end of the first quarter and maintained the advantage the rest of the game. The fourth quarter was a virtual clinic in sucking the life from an opponent. Colony never got within single digits down the stretch.
“The guys did a great job following the game plan,” Campolindo coach Steven Dyer said.
A season that began with a close loss to Division I state runner-up James Logan and included a win over Northern California Open Division finalist Modesto Christian plus a league championship ended with a most memorable performance under the bright lights of a state final.
“Hard to describe,” Dyer said. “It’s been a long road. We started Oct. 29 with practice. We had a lot of adversity. But you can’t envision a better ending than this. There are only six teams in the state that end up winning a state title and finishing your season on a win. There are not many feelings like it.”
Of the eight Campo players on the court for at least seven minutes Saturday, there were two freshmen, three sophomores, a junior and only two seniors.
Aidan Mahaney made it look easy, even though he said the jump to high school was tougher than he expected. His older brother, Carter, a junior, also starts and scored eight points.
“It was surprising how hard the transition was from eighth grade to high school,” Aidan Mahaney said. “I’ve been playing at a high level for a while and I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was.”
If this was tough, hard to imagine what the kid will be like when things get easier.
Or what Campo will be like next season.
“The potential is really up there,” said senior David Ahazie, who had eight points and six rebounds. “I know they have a lot of good eighth graders coming in and now they have experience with freshmen and sophomores. They could be really good for years to come.”
Colony (31-6) had won its previous 14 games and got 28 points in the state final from its best player, Sedrick Altman. But nobody else managed more than six points.
“They played very well defensively,” Colony coach Jerry De Fabiis said. “From our standpoint, obviously we didn’t shoot the ball very well. Think we panicked a little bit on offense. We got behind, and I thought we tried to get it back all at once. I didn’t think we played that bad defensively. But we tell the kids that when you don’t score and your offense is bad, it puts pressure on your defense.”
Colony shot just 29.6 percent (19 for 54), far from the 48.9 percent (22 for 45) that Campo converted.
Campo also out-rebounded Colony 37-28.
“We had the talent to do it,” Dyer said. “Obviously with the youth that we had, you never know what could happen. But our four seniors were great leaders. Obviously Carter as a junior is a very experienced guy. The biggest thing is our freshmen and sophomores worked really hard, and they earned everything that they got. This was a really connected group — seniors through freshmen. Not any clicks. Everyone gets along. That’s why we were so successful.”
Saturday, that collection of youth and experience returned to Moraga with something shiny and new — a state championship trophy.
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