By Ray Hamill — The St. Bernard’s Crusaders will play for a little bit of H-DNL history on Thursday night when they travel to Weed for the NorCal Division-VI boys basketball championship.
The Crusaders will be playing for their second NorCal crown, which would give them one more than Hoopa, the only other local boys team to ever win a NorCal championship.
A win would also give St. Bernard’s a North Coast Section and NorCal double, which would be the first time an H-DNL boys team ever achieved that.
Both previous times an H-DNL team has won a boys NorCal title — Hoopa in 2000 and St. Bernard’s in 2016 — those teams advanced to the state playoffs after losing in the NCS tournament.
The St. Bernard’s girls won the prestigious section and NorCal double in 2015 and 2016, but no other local girls team has ever done so.
The SB boys will have their hands full, as you would expect in a NorCal decider, and head coach Issac Gildea and his players won’t be taking their opponents lightly.
“They’re athletic, they’re strong, they’re quick and they’re fast,” the coach said of the Cougars. “And it’s going to be a great game.”
The No. 1 seed Cougars are 20-3 and have won seven straight games and 15 of their last 16.
They have reached the NorCal championship after victories over Credo (68-50) and Valley Christian (86-75).
The No. 3 Crusaders, meanwhile, are 23-8 and reached the championship game with victories over Elliot Christian (88-47) and Redding Christian (53-51), with the latter coming courtesy of a big fourth-quarter rally on Saturday night.
The good news for the Crusaders is they have several players who have been playing well, including senior guard Drew Vizenor, who has been a consistent presence all season long.
Owen Shanahan also has played consistently well all season long, as has Aidan Dorsch, while Aiden Burris has been clutch this postseason and was huge in Saturday’s win, nailing three fourth-quarter 3s in the comeback.
Several other players have also played well, including Seth Dyer, Peyton Smith and Demetrius Rawson.
And Gildea will be hoping for more of the same against a very dangerous Cougars team.
“We’ve got to play our brand of basketball,” the coach said. “Getting stops and knocking down shots.”
The team traveled to Weed on Wednesday afternoon and were scheduled to practice at the Weed gym later in the day, which Gildea described as “pretty classy on their part.”
Tip off is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be streamed live through the NFHS Network.
It will not, however, be broadcast live on local radio.