By CHACE BRYSON | Editor
Gemeny Givens couldn’t speak with enthusiasm, but he didn’t have any problem finding perspective following his final game in a St. Joseph Notre Dame High uniform.
After four years in the Pilots’ program, he was walking in the catacombs of Power Balance Pavilion after playing in the state final “” the third time he’s been able to experience such a walk, but the second time it’s come following a loss.
“I’m just blessed,” he said while fixing his stare on the concrete as he walked. “To say three out of four years I went to state, and to have the pleasure of winning one last year. And to play on four great teams and get a chance to play for Coach (Don) Lippi who got his 700th win and I got to be a part of that “” it’s a beautiful thing and I just feel blessed.”
Such a beautiful thing was supposed to finish with one more victory.
After rolling through the California Interscholastic Federation Northern Regional playoffs with lopsided wins of 73-29, 66-45 and 77-53, the defending Division V state champions couldn’t have been more confident heading into the 11:30 tip-off time on March 24. Especially seeing as how the night before, the Pilots watched as fellow Bay Shore Athletic League foe Salesian won the Division IV championship.
However, St. Joseph’s Southern California opponent, Village Christian-Sun Valley “” playing in its first state final “” had one thing the Pilots didn’t.
Size. Lots of it.
The Crusaders boasted a three-man front court of 6-foot-7 Maquis Salmon, 6-foot-7 Marsalis Johnson and 6-foot-6 Andrew English. They also started 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Bryant Alberts.
St. Joseph held just one lead the entire contest, a 9-8 margin with 5:40 left in the first half. They trailed 20-18 at halftime and 37-35 after three quarters. Village Christian pushed its lead to seven early into the fourth quarter and the Pilots were never able to get closer than four the rest of the way. The Crusaders won their 32nd game of the season 62-51.
“We talked about how their are four things you have to do win a championship,” Lippi said. “One, you got to get there. Two, you got to make your layups. Three, you got to make your free throws. And four, you have to believe you worked harder than the other team to get there. I think everything was good except maybe the free throws.”
St. Joseph made just 12 of 21 shots from the foul line.
Givens wasn’t about to fault his team’s effort.
“I think we gave it our all,” said the senior, who with 14 points was one of just two Pilots to score in double figures. Sophomore center Temidayo Yussuf lead St. Joseph with 15 points. “I don’t think anybody held anything back. You have to give credit to the other team. They came out and wanted it probably just as bad as we did.”
Four Crusaders players finished in double figures. The size advantage also led to 11 blocked shots.
Moments before Givens took his last walk through the depths of the NBA arena, he offered the final phrase of the Pilots’ postgame press conference.
“We didn’t get our movie ending like we would’ve liked,” he said. “But this ain’t Hollywood.”
SportStars Magazine: High School Sports Articles Online SportStars is your go-to source for the very best high school sports articles in California. Player and team profiles, game coverage, health and fitness tips and the largest Camps, Clinics & Combine resource for athletes. We're the story behind the stats.