The St. Bernard’s Crusaders are making a habit of fourth-quarter comebacks.
On Saturday night, they rallied from an 11-point deficit to pull out a thrilling 53-51 victory at Redding Christian, knocking off the No. 2 seeds to advance to the NorCal Division-VI boys basketball championship game.
Aaiden Burris and Aidan Dorsch keyed the late rally with some big baskets down the stretch, as the No. 3 Crusaders did not lead at any stage until the final minute of the game.
A large St. Bernard’s crowd made the trip for the game, including around 60 students who travelled over on a bus rented for the occasion by an anonymous donor.
“We brought a whole bunch of fans,” St. Bernard’s head coach Issac Gildea said. “They piled in the bus, and the atmosphere was crazy. It was nuts.”
Both teams started the game slowly at the offensive end and the Lions held a slender 7-5 lead going into the second quarter.
The home team began to slowly away after that, stretching the advantage to eight at halftime and to 11 going into the final period.
The Crusaders were just getting warmed up, however, and would outscore the Lions 21-8 in the fourth quarter.
Drew Vizenor got the rally started with a 3-pointer, while Burris added three clutch fourth-quarter 3s.
Dorsch also scored three big late baskets, including what turned out to be the game winner in the final minute.
The senior leader also drained a late free throw to help ice the win, before the SB defense held firm on the Lions’ final possession.
Burris scored a team-high 12 points in the win, all from 3-point range, while Vizenor and Owen Shanahan each added 10 points and Dorsch had nine.
“Burris is a big-time clutch player,” Gildea said. “And he loves that moment.”
Shanahan also was instrumental in the win.
“Owen was really good,” the head coach said. “He controlled the glass and played good defense.”
Peyton Smith, Demetrius Rawson and Seth Dyer each also scored four points in the win.
It was the second straight week the Crusaders rallied in the fourth quarter, having also overcome a late deficit on the way to beating Valley Christian in the North Coast Section championship game last Saturday.
“It was just a magical moment,” Gildea said. “What a crowd, what a team. We really wanted it tonight. I can’t say enough about our guys.”
With the win, St. Bernard’s is now 23-8, while the Lions close out their season 26-3.
The NorCal championship game will be held at Weed on Tuesday at 6 p.m. after the No. 1 seed Cougars defeated Valley Christian 86-75 in the other semifinal on Saturday night.