…to El Cerrito, 64 – 54, in the 1st Round of D2 NCS Playoffs
The #14 seed, Acalanes Dons, battled the #3 seed, El Cerrito Gauchos, down to the final minute before falling 64 – 54. In what many, including myself, thought might be a blow-out game was anything but that. The Dons surprised the El Cerrito fans and team with their never give up approach to the game. The final score reflects a 10 point victory for El Cerrito. But the final two minutes were a much closer than that and the Gauchos were sweating until the final buzzer.
The 1st quarter was pretty uneventful for both teams. That was just fine for Acalanes. The score after one quarter was 6 – 6. I overheard one of the El Cerrito fans say to another fan, “it looks like it is going to be one of those games.” It was.
The 2nd quarter was much more entertaining offensively and the lead went back and forth between the Dons and the Gauchos. The Dons took their first lead of the game 14 – 13 with 4:28 to go in the 2nd quarter. 20 seconds later they extended their lead to 17 – 13 on the three point play by Jesse Marlow and El Cerrito took a time out to re-group. The Gauchos would fight their way back to take a halftime lead over the Dons, 22 – 21.
In the 3rd quarter El Cerrito capitalized on several Acalanes turnovers and stretched their lead to 10 points, 48 – 38, as the team entered the 4th. In the 4th quarter the Dons would make this game very interesting. Acalanes cut El Cerrito’s lead to 9 points with 5:37 to go. They cut it to 7 points with 3:15 to go. The Dons cut the lead to 4 points on a Marlow three point shot, 58 – 54 with 2:02 to go in the contest…time out El Cerrito. The El Cerrito fans were shaking their heads trying to figure out how Acalanes was on the brink of stealing this 1st Round NCS Playoff game. Acalanes had the chance to close the game to one but the multiple three point attempts would not fall. The Gaucho’s responded with a basket and the lead was 6, 60 – 54 with 52.5 seconds to go. Acalanes could not get a three point basket to fall in the final minute and El Cerrito extended its lead to 10 on a couple of break-out lay-ups when Acalanes was sending all bodies to crash the boards. When the final horn sounded, the scoreboard read 64 – 54, El Cerrito over Acalanes.
As usual, this Acalanes team battled and scrapped against a team, that on paper, seemed like an overwhelming favorite. They were never out of this game. In fact, the victory was right there for them to snatch in the final two minutes. Unfortunately for the Dons, that damn ball would not go in the basket when they really needed it. This team played with a lot of heart and pride all season and they showed El Cerrito that Acalanes would not go down without a fight to the end.
It was an emotional night for the seniors who played their last basketball game wearing the royal blue and white uniform of Acalanes. There were some glassy eyes and a few tears from the seniors as they walked out of the El Cerrito gym. The five seniors set an example for the younger players about: work ethic, sacrifice, being a great teammate, unselfishness and leadership. Thank you to our seniors for all that you gave to the team this season – Nico Brightbill, Joey Christensen, Nathan Edwards, Alex Kinnear and my favorite player, Andrew McKendell. The Acalanes Boys Varsity Basketball program will be in excellent hands next season with potentially nine returning players – Ryan Summerlin, Carter Smith, Aaron Hill, Nick Price, Aidan McNamara, Robbie Rowell, Gavin Shipp, Ryan Nall and Jesse Marlow. The future is bright.
This will be my last Acalanes Boys Varsity Basketball write-up. It was my pleasure bringing you a look inside two Acalanes Boys Varsity Basketball seasons (2013-14 and 2015-16). I wish the juniors and sophomore players much success in their basketball seasons ahead. I will be watching from the stands and cheering loudly for each of them.
As Always…Go Dons!!!