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By ERIK STORDAHL | SportStars   It wasn’t the finest game of his storied career, but Richard Longrus still brought his lunch pail to...

By ERIK STORDAHL | SportStars

 

It wasn’t the finest game of his storied career, but Richard Longrus still brought his lunch pail to McKeon Pavilion at St. Mary’s College.

Longrus helped the Bishop O’Dowd boys basketball team capture its second NCS championship in three years and the program’s 14th overall. The senior forward scored eight points and inhaled 18 rebounds as the Dragons knocked off Campolindo 56-43 in the Division III title game March 3. 

“When I talk to seniors, I kinda always talk about ‘Gotta get three banners this year (NCS, Nor Cal, State),'” Longrus said. “Last year, we got the Nor Cal banner and that was it.”

Bishop O’Dowd coach Doug Vierra acknowledged how having someone like Longrus on his team makes winning easier.

“Just look at the stats,” Vierra said. “Richard Longrus had 18 of 29 defensive rebounds. It’s pretty incredible.”

Containing Longrus was most certainly in Campolindo’s game plan and while they held him below double digits in points, Longrus wreaked havoc on defense by blocking shots and altering others. The Cougars, essentially playing a home game, weren’t able to establish a rhythm offensively.

While winning NCS is nice, the Dragons have bigger fish to fry. The last two years Bishop O’Dowd made it to the CIF Div. III state championship only to come up just short. Last season, they were upset in the state final 64-59 against Lutheran-La Verne.

“I think losing last year really helped us to be a team,” Longrus said. “We know what adversity is with our eight seniors, we know how to push through. So this year we kinda value every game. It’s our last year so we want to win out; we want to leave a legacy, so coming here and getting this banner is huge for us.”

But what’s so special about this year’s team that qualifies them to be state title contenders? After all, they lost senior forward Brandon Ashley “” one of the nation’s top recruits “” when he bolted for Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev., last summer. One would think the Dragons would take two steps backward, not one step forward. 

“This team has proven that it’s deep,” Vierra said. “They’re very competitive, they’re very close guys, starting with this senior class. We’re pretty balanced. I don’t know who you’re gonna key on to stop us. Tonight we didn’t win with offense, we won it with defense.”

Vierra’s right. Despite making an abysmal 13 of 30 free throws, Bishop O’Dowd still enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout thanks to the heart and hustle from his players on defense.

Players like senior Terrence Daniel, who finished with 13 points, and freshman forward Ivan Rabb helped limit Campolindo’s offensive output in the second half, which kept the Cougars’ incendiary cheering section at bay.

The road to collecting that elusive state banner is still a long three weeks away. How do the Dragons maintain that level of grit and tenacity?

“We’re all getting mentally tired, physically tired,” Longrus said. “But we all want to get this state title. “¦ We know we’re all working for the same goal.”

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