Montgomery boys win NCS championship

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Good teams don’t lose confidence and Montgomery had answers when Las Lomas took second-half leads, the strongest reply a nine-point run to close out the boys’ section title game Friday.

Montgomery fans mob their basketball team on the court after they defeated Las Lomas in the NCS championship game at SRJC on Friday night, March 4, 2011. Montgomery defeated Las Lomas 58-51. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

Falling behind for the first time in four playoff games, Montgomery didn’t wilt under Las Lomas’ pressure at both ends of the court. The Vikings slowed the pace enough to find good shots with the game on the line to win the North Coast Section Division 2 championship, 58-51, before a packed house at Santa Rosa Junior College.

No shot was bigger than Alec Kobre pulling up from somewhere around Sebastopol to bury a 3-pointer and break a tie. Then the swingman calmly sank a pair of free throws as Montgomery regained control in the game’s final 90 seconds.

“That’s my favorite spot on the court, the right wing. I just let it loose,” said Kobre, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half. “Its senior year and NCS, but I just played like I have all year.”

Winning the school’s fifth NCS title was the goal for a Vikings team led by a quartet of seniors who played standout roles, rarely coming out of games during the title run.

Now comes the second playoff season, the NorCal regional to decide who plays in the state title game. The section championship assures Montgomery of a home game and perhaps a first-round bye.

“It’s the most amazing thing. I’ve been dreaming of doing something like that since second or third grade,” said point guard Zack Templeton, a steady hand who was hot for stretches in scoring 16 points.

Montgomery's Zack Templeton splits the Las Lomas defense as he goes to the hoop during the NCS championship game at SRJC on Friday night, March 4, 2011. Montgomery defeated Las Lomas 58-51. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

That the Vikings won while often playing at the frenetic pace Las Lomas prefers made the win even more of a statement heading into the NorCal regional.

“We had our chances. The difference in the game was they made big plays and we didn’t down the stretch,” said Las Lomas coach Jeff Loving. “They’re seasoned. Their level of ball is very high.”

While the Vikings don’t have the overall size or athleticism to leave opponents in awe, what Montgomery has is a joy for basketball and an unselfish will to win.

“They just love to play. Tonight we played good enough to win,” said Montgomery coach Tom Fitchie.

As playoff games go, the start fit the bill of good teams sizing up each other.

Montgomery took a seven-point lead only to have Las Lomas close to within a point heading to the second quarter.

Slashing guard Quentin Mendoza and Templeton took turns hitting shots, often driving the lane as Montgomery held the lead throughout the first half.

But the Knights have several playmakers equally skilled at creating shots around the basket. Treaven Duffy was the best on the floor with a drive-and-pull-up game Montgomery struggled to contain. Duffy scored 13 of his game high 21 points in the first half to keep the contest close.

The visitors from Walnut Creek wouldn’t go away. After the Vikings pushed the lead back to seven, the Knights closed to within a point at halftime.

A driving shot by Kenny Grimble gave Las Lomas its first lead to open the second half, but Templeton soon followed with a 3-pointer to put Montgomery back on top. The opposing point guards each scored eight points in the period that ended with Montgomery leading by four.

A 3-pointer by Mendoza to open the final period put Montgomery up 49-42 and had Vikings fans in a frenzy. The lead evaporated under a trio of deep shots as Las Lomas went up 51-49.

Kobre answered, rising with a sharpshooter’s confidence to stroke home what would be the game-winning basket.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.