The St. Bernard High School Vikings boys basketball team came up just short in a 58-57 Del Rey League-opening loss to the visiting Serra High School Cavaliers Wednesday, January 11th, but Vikings coach Robert Alaniz said his team still showed it’s as good as any team in the league.
St. Bernard (10-9, 0-1) had to start league play the tough way, by facing its rival and one of the favorites for the league title, Serra (13-4, 2-0).
The Cavaliers demonstrated why they are one of the top teams in the league by holding the edge over St. Bernard for most of the game, including a 50-41 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
But the Vikings stayed within striking distance throughout the game and proved that they weren’t about to let up.
St. Bernard gradually climbed back and finally picked up its first lead at 57-56 with 1:15 remaining in the game when senior guard Winsor Williams nailed a three-pointer.
The Cavaliers didn’t let the Vikings have it for long as senior forward Justin Clardy, who finished with a game-high 16 points and five rebounds, made two key free throws to take the lead back with 55 seconds remaining.
The Cavalier defense forced a last-second three-point attempt by Williams that missed the target and the Vikings fell just short in the comeback effort.
“We came in looking for a win and we feel we were right there,” Alaniz said of his team.
“We’re as good as anyone in the league.”
Despite a slow start on offense with a number of missed shots, St. Bernard was able to stay close behind an aggressive Serra team at 17-14 heading into the second quarter.
The Cavaliers came out even more aggressive in the second quarter by forcing St. Bernard turnovers and went on an early 10-0 run before the Vikings got their first points.
Junior Ryan Jones scored seven points in the quarter to help keep the Vikings within striking distance, but Serra took a 39-30 halftime lead after sophomore Keion Bell racked up ten second-quarter points.
The Cavaliers gave St. Bernard even more trouble when they went on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter and grabbed their biggest lead of the game at 17 points.
But things started to turn around from there for the Vikings, as they began to capitalize on Serra turnovers.
Senior Jonathan Lucas, who led the Vikings with 13 points and ten rebounds in the game, was a key factor in the third quarter after scoring five points to help keep St. Bernard within nine points before the final quarter.
“We got a few stops and we were able to get the ball inside to Lucas,” said Alaniz, referring to the third-quarter turnaround.
The momentum continued for the Vikings in the fourth quarter and they got an offensive boost from a 7-1 run.
Seniors Nick Hackie and Vernon Sance combined for nine points to lead the Viking comeback effort in the final quarter, but the Cavaliers still managed to barely hang on for the victory, despite missing five-of-nine free-throw attempts.
Williams finished with eight points and Sance added seven points for St. Bernard.
While Alaniz acknowledged that St. Bernard has had trouble “down the stretch” all season, he said the Vikings’ performance showed that they are among the best in the league and the division.