NCS boys basketball: Montgomery grinds out 63-55 win over Redwood

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Montgomery's Alec Raven, right, is fouled on a drive to the basket by Redwood's Molefi Thompson during Friday's second-round NCS playoff game. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Montgomery’s Alec Raven, right, is fouled on a drive to the basket by Redwood’s Molefi Thompson during Friday’s second-round NCS playoff game. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Fast starts and strong finishes typically produce wins, but Montgomery’s resilience against fearless Redwood was the difference in a quarterfinal playoff victory Friday night.

Twice taking double-digit leads, Montgomery held off Redwood comebacks. The Vikings’ aggressive offense generated steady scoring around the basket and put the Giants in foul trouble with late free throws, sealing the 63-55 win.

“They play good defense. You have to attack that,” said Alec Raven, who scored early and often in the win. “We like to put pressure on teams.”

The swarming Redwood game plan — the Giants go 11 deep — played into Montgomery’s hands for stretches. Yet such depth also makes Redwood difficult to keep down.

“We’re never out of a game,” said Redwood scoring leader Molefi Thompson. “We can score points in a hurry. We keep running out guys.”

The opponents respected one another’s strengths and the game unfolded much as expected in the North Coast Section Division 2 boys matchup.

Redwood played in the Montgomery and Cardinal Newman early season tournaments, splitting six games in those Sonoma County appearances. The Giants reached the section quarterfinals after defeating Casa Grande on the road.

Top seed Montgomery was prepared, cutting through the Giants for a big first-quarter lead.

“In the playoffs, you’ve got come ready,” Montgomery coach Tom Fitchie said.

A step quicker and pushing all plays to the basket, Montgomery went up by 14 early with Raven scoring a dozen in the first period on a 33-point night.

“We had to stop him. We didn’t do it. He knows how to win,” Redwood coach Steve Compagno said. “But there’s no quit in this team. I’m really proud of our guys.”

After starting the game with five scoreless possessions, Redwood gradually found footing.

The bench helped boost the Giants’ confidence with sparkplug Nick Jones scoring nine of his 14 in the second quarter, cutting the Vikings’ lead to five points at the half.

Montgomery did not take advantage of bonus free throws beginning early in the second quarter, allowing Redwood to stay close.

An opening Redwood score in the third period narrowed the Montgomery lead to a basket. Thompson hit a 3-pointer to get going after scoring once in the first half.

Attacking with earnest, Montgomery reeled off 10 straight points, with Noah Orlik driving for scores to match Raven’s touches down low.

The Vikings doubled their halftime lead at the quarter’s close.

“Everyone was aggressive. We played well as a team,” Raven said.

Momentum swung again to Redwood. Down by 13 early in the fourth period, the Giants deployed a full-court press as in the second quarter to slow down Montgomery and chip away at the deficit.

“We wanted to make them play a full-court game,” Thompson said.

“We go everywhere thinking we can win.”

Hitting four 3-pointers in the final period, Redwood pulled within three points with under a minute to play.

Free-throw shooting kept Montgomery ahead. This time taking making the most of the bonus, the Vikings converted 11 of 14 at the line, with Raven and Orlik hitting the shots.

“We just kept going at them and we hit some clutch ones,” Raven said.

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