Boys’ hoops falls by 12 to Serra in quarterfinals

By Robbie Loeb

An up-and-down season for the boys’ basketball team culminated in a 62-50 loss at the hands of Gardena Serra in the CIF quarterfinals. The Wolverines finished their season 19-10 and went 7-5 in the Mission League for a fourth-place finish.

Since the preseason opened with two straight losses in November, the Wolverines have been inconsistent, and the December injury to forward Josh Hearlihy ’12 that sidelined him for six weeks certainly didn’t help their cause. The team was never able to string together more than four straight wins and got behind early in the league season, losing to Chaminade, Loyola and Alemany in a four-game span. The season certainly had its highlights, Head Coach Greg Hilliard said, particularly a buzzer-beating victory at Crespi and a 81-62 win over the eventual Mission League champion Alemany in the final league game. That momentum carried into the playoffs as the team breezed past Whitney with a 34-point thrashing in the first round and narrowly closed out JSerra 53-49 in round two.

“We lived up to our eight seed, and we gave the first seed a very good run for their money,” Hilliard said. “We had the only late-season victory over Alemany, who was a very strong team.”

But the disappointments reigned supreme for the Wolverines, who fell twice to rival Loyola and were bounced from the playoffs early on. The team did not finish atop the league standings for the first time in four years, despite having a physically imposing and talented frontline. Serra, with 6-foot-10 Emmanual Ndumanya, 6-6 Daddy Ugbede and 6-7 Tavrion Dawson was the only team the boys faced all season that could matchup with their size.

“It was new,” Hearlihy said. “Not a whole lot of teams can match up with all of our size person for person like they could. We didn’t hit the boards as strong as we needed to against a team that was as strong as us and as athletic as us.”

Hilliard said consistently bad third quarters plagued his team, which explains the erratic results. The troublesome third was perhaps most exposed in the team’s final loss, in which the Wolverines saw their double-digit first-half lead vanish behind a 10-0 run by Serra to start the third. The Wolverines committed five turnovers at the end of that quarter and ended up getting blown out in the quarter 25-9.

“Give credit to Serra,” Zena Edosomwan ’12 said. “We just had a collapse in the third quarter and they capitalized.”

“These guys did very well with the characteristic of having a bad quarter every game,” Hilliard said. “Somehow we were able to overcome that enough to have a very strong season.”

Last year’s team won the Mission League and a CIF title despite injuries to key role players, which this year’s team couldn’t match even with the improvements Edosomwan made to his game in the offseason and Derick Newton’s ’14 emergence as the team’s leading scorer.