Postgame thoughts on Montgomery-Cardinal Newman

Posted by Staff Writer Eric Branch:
Some musings on Montgomery’s come-from-behind 51-49 win over Cardinal Newman in the North Bay League Tournament title game Friday night:
* It’s hard to root against 5-foot-7, 125-pound high school guards. So I already kind of liked Montgomery’s Zack Templeton before Friday night.
I’d seen him play earlier this year and noticed he had a good outside shot and wasn’t afraid to venture in the lane with an effective running floater. I mean, he can play. He’s not Rudy in high-tops.
In the Montgomery games I covered earlier this season, Templeton started. But he didn’t start Friday against Newman. Vikings coach Tom Fitchie kept Templeton on the bench for long stretches because he doesn’t match up well with the Cardinals defensively.
Fitchie admitted he nearly forgot about Templeton, who stayed on the bench for most of the third quarter. But few Montgomery fans will forget what Templeton did in the fourth quarter — scoring six of his 10 points in the final 1:47, including a wild, up-and-under flip in traffic that rolled in to give the Vikings a 51-49 lead with about three seconds left.
After he was mobbed at midcourt and lifted onto the shoulders of some students, Templeton emerged from the Vikings’ locker room so I could ask him a few questions. Like I said, I already liked him. But I found him even easier to root for after meeting him.
He was excited and humble and sincere and, when I asked him about not starting and almost molding on the bench, his answer seemed quite genuine. “Oh, that’s fine with me. Whatever. Whatever helps us win.”
* Templeton scored the game-winner on a pick-and-roll from 6-9 center Ben Freeland. So, to review, that was the tallest player on the court, passing to the tiniest player, for the game’s biggest shot.
* After taking a 16-12 first-quarter lead, Montgomery was outscored 34-18, a stretch during which it made 5 of 21 shots. Both Templeton and junior guard Alec Kobre said the Vikings were playing selfishly. Not surprisingly, Fitchie agreed and had told his players to share the ball.
The Vikings would be wise to remember. The way they played down the stretch against Newman reminded me of their performance in an impressive 63-47 win against Elsie Allen this season. In both instances, they passed the ball crisply, ultimately leaving someone free for an open shot.
Montgomery will likely get the No. 2 seed in Division II when the NCS playoffs pairings are announced Sunday. Redwood (25-2) is expected to be the top seed.
* Leading 30-29 in the third quarter, Newman went on a 16-5 run during which it played perhaps its best basketball. The Cardinals rely heavily on Bobby Sharp and Xavier MCall to provide offense, and the duo scored seven of the 16 points during the spurt. But point guard Jamie Ford scored four points — two off a steal and breakaway lay-up — while Andy Noonan came off the bench to drain a 3-pointer and John Goodwin, another bench player, drained two free throws.
The Cardinals will need similar across-the-board contributions to make a run in the rugged Division IV playoffs, which will be headlined by defending state champion Salesian. Newman might get a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.