SAN FRANCISCO — Rory Kenneally thought he’d won the game. In coach Jason Greenfield’s eyes, Kenneally’s 3-pointer as time expired should have sent St. Ignatius to its first CCS Open Division final.
But a hundred feet away, on the opposite baseline, after officials added 1.1 seconds back on the block, Riordan center Mor Seck and St. Ignatius center Ethan Jew fell to the floor entangled and a whistle blew. Seck headed to the line, where he sank his ninth and 10th free throws of the game and pulled Riordan into the Open title game from the brink of elimination moments earlier.
“That’s how playoff games are supposed to go,” Riordan coach Joey Curtin said after the 66-65 win, setting up a championship matchup at No. 1 Archbishop Mitty on Friday. “I’m just glad we made free throws, man. … Luckily we have a 7-footer and it’s hard to stay in front of him, and he ended up making two clutch free throws.”
Seck, a 7-foot-1 junior with Division I offers from Kansas and many others, didn’t miss in 10 trips to the line and finished with a game-high 24 points, along with nine rebounds.
Whether he earned the final two free throws was a matter of contention afterward.
“He pulled him down and the ref ate it up,” said Greenfield, who completed his first season at St. Ignatius with a 12-7 record and loses only one starter next year. “We won that game.”
“I don’t really miss free throws,” Seck added. “The whole time, I was like, ‘OK, we’re down by one, so I know I can win this game.’ During the pandemic, I was working on my free throws the whole time. (They’re) not used to other big men who play like smaller guys, so they’re always going to foul you. It’s the only way they can get you.”
After SI’s Rory Kenneally nailed a 3 off a stolen pass with 1.1 seconds left, Riordan center Mor Seck drew a foul at the opposite end of the floor and made both of the 1-and-1 for the 66-65 final. pic.twitter.com/MBp930qX9f
Down 5 with under a minute to play, Kenneally hit his first clutch 3 to pull the Wildcats within 2. On the ensuing inbounds play, junior Adrian Di Lena intercepted the pass at halfcourt and passed it off to Giancarlo Toledo, who found Kenneally again for a second 3-pointer and a one-point lead as time initially appeared to expire.
Officials conferred as Kenneally and his teammates celebrated on their bench and added 1.1 seconds back on the clock.
“I thought it was done. I thought there was no more time on the clock,” Kenneally said. “Refs come out and give them 1.1 (seconds). I didn’t see the foul, but I thought we got robbed on that one.”
Curtin said the Crusaders had two plays drawn up for the inbounds play, which would have to go the length of the court for the game-winning basket. Senior Robert Vaihola was going to either heave it to Seck or 6-foot-8 freshman Zion Sensley.
Before the ball could hit the court, Seck and his defender were in a pile on the floor.
“I just thought they’d get a chuck and I’d put my big guy out there, it would be up for grabs, we’d get a tip and it’d be game,” Greenfield said. “I didn’t think the refs were going to come in and assert themselves. That’s what happened.”
Riordan opened a double-digit lead in the first half, but St. Ignatius closed it within 2 by halftime, and junior Ryan Conroy gave the Wildcats a lead with a 3-pointer on the first possession of the third quarter. Conroy finished with 18 points, including 10 in the third quarter.
Sophomore guard King Wilhite finished second on the Crusaders with 12 points, and Vaihola collected a game-high 11 rebounds to go with 10 points and five assists.
Riordan had its season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic last spring as the top seed in the NorCal Division I regionals, following an early exit from the CCS Open playoffs. Now back in the Open for a third straight season, Riordan clinched its first championship game berth with the nail-biting win Wednesday night. Awaiting the Crusaders is defending Open champion Archbishop Mitty, which sailed by Half Moon Bay in its semifinal.
“I wish it was at a neutral site and everybody could go,” Curtin said. “It’s going to be a great game. It just won’t have the same atmosphere as the Open final should. But playing at Mitty is always tough, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”