By PETER FOURNIER
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
MOUNTAIN VIEW — Regular season records are thrown out the window come playoff time. Case in point: he first round Northern California Division 2 High School Basketball Championship match-up between the Montgomery High boys basketball team and St. Francis on Wednesday night.
St. Francis came into the state tournament with a 12-16 record, compared to Montgomery’s 23-8 mark. The Lancers were 4-10 in the West Catholic Athletic League while the Vikings were 12-2 in the North Bay League. St. Francis, however, won the D-II Central Coast Section title, hence earning an opening-round home game despite being the lower seed.
Down 19 points at halftime, the Vikings seemed a long way from their strong regular season. The Lancers drained 11 3-pointers, including seven in the first half, to end Montgomery’s season with a 58-45 defeat.
“They could really shoot,” Vikings coach Tom Fitchie said.
“They could flat out shoot the ball. We knew that, but you don’t quite know it until you experience it.”
The 3-point attack came quickly. Twelve of St. Francis’ 14 points in the first were from 3-point baskets.
“We knew we had to get that down a little bit,” Fitchie said. “The thing is they were from four different guys, so that’s what makes it so tough.”
Montgomery made things worse in the second quarter. The Vikings backed up an eight-point first with a six-point second, failing to hit a field goal in the quarter, with all points coming from free throws.
“I wished we would have competed a little bit more in the first half,” Fitchie said.
“I don’t think there was quite that urgency you need in a state tournament.”
A strong third quarter gave Montgomery hope. The Vikings held the Lancers scoreless for the first four minutes of the second half, and went on a 9-0 run.
In the final seconds of the third, senior Joey Picard hit the shot of the night; a no-look, turn-around 3 that rimmed around the hoop, glanced off the backboard and bounced around the iron one more time before dropping in.
“I was looking for some one to pass to and there was no one open, so I just turned around and threw it up as the buzzer was about to sound,” Picard said.
Picard’s bucket made it an 11-point game going into the fourth.
“It was pretty cool because it got us going and we were in rhythm, and we started a little comeback. It got exciting,” Picard said.
The Vikings’ final charge would get them as close as eight points, but not close enough to threaten St. Francis’ lead.
Fitchie joked that Pickard’s 3 evened out one of the Lancers’, which appeared to fall at-will in the first half.
“He knew he had to get it up, and he was alert enough and smart enough to get it off on time,” Fitchie said. “We got a very kind roll for sure.”
Montgomery loses four seniors, including Pickard, next season but returns 11, including Alec Raven, who finished with 18 points. Pickard’s heart and soul would be missed, Fitchie said, adding, “He’s my kind of player for sure.”
The Lancers play at Antelope in the second round Saturday at 7 p.m.