CIF boys basketball: Montgomery withstands late Del Oro charge

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Montgomery's Michael Septimo, right, drives around Del Oro's Jack Huizenga during Wednesday's CIF Division 2 playoff basketball game. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Montgomery’s Michael Septimo, right, drives around Del Oro’s Jack Huizenga during Wednesday’s CIF Division 2 playoff basketball game. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Toughness is all-important playing Montgomery basketball, and the Vikings needed every ounce of determination to win the program’s first state playoff game in more than a decade.

Montgomery pushed to control the first half but needed big scores late after Del Oro erased a double digit deficit. Noah Orlik’s 3-pointer with a half-minute remaining proved to be the difference in the 53-51 win Wednesday night at Montgomery High.

“Teams are going to have runs. We did a good job to stay tough,” said Orlik, the Vikings’ point guard. “We were composed. We knew what to do.”

Check out game photos here

The visitors from the Sierra foothills played like a team with just two losses on the season. Twice, the Golden Eagles cut Montgomery leads in half and pulled into a tie three minutes into the final period.

“We’re a team that grinds,” said point guard Danny Muscarella. “We got fired up at halftime. We came out with more intensity and just hit our shots.”

In what could be Montgomery’s final home game on a season now with 26 wins bolsters the Vikings’ confidence heading into Saturday’s contest at Serra.

A week earlier, Montgomery fell in overtime to Concord at home, ending the Vikings’ bid for a North Coast Section title.

Reaching that section semifinal, though, meant the Vikings had an opportunity to keep the season going in the Northern California half of the state playoffs. A close game was expected even with Del Oro the lowest seed.

“That’s what you can always expect in these games. You can never let up,” said the Vikings’ Sam Averbuck.

Montgomery’s sharpshooter helped the Vikings to a fast start with eight of the team’s first 14 points and a seven-point first-period advantage.

A step quicker both in transition and the half court, Montgomery sliced through Del Oro for scores. Alec Raven scored half of his 18 in the opening quarter.

“Offensively, they are a very good passing and shooting team. They are patient and can beat you inside and outside,” said Del Oro coach Geoff Broyles. “Our guys battled, they never surrendered.”

Del Oro went to a trapping zone defense the remainder of the game.

The pace slowed and Del Oro worked to stay close with Kyle Setterlund in particular a handful around the basket in the first half. Still, the Vikings’ ability to attack and make sharp passes across the floor helped restore the seven-point cushion at halftime.

Averbuck hit a 3-pointer over the zone defense for the final score.

“We were able to adjust and make some shots,” he said.

Another turning point would come with Montgomery up by 10 following a Raven score early in the third period.

He would soon pick up a fourth foul and head to the bench.

A scoring run fed by strong rebounding got Del Oro back in the game. A pair of Muscarella 3-pointers were the biggest shots.

“It started on the defensive end. That got our offense going,” he said. “We’ve got different guys who can score, different threats.”

So does Montgomery. Kiel Long inside and Orlik outside made clutch shots throughout the final two periods.

Long scored the Vikings’ first points of the fourth quarter to restore Montgomery’s lead and added a late basket off a give-and-go from Raven to keep his team ahead.

Then the 3-pointer from Orlik off a crossover dribble sealed the win.

Opening the state playoffs with a win ends a drought for the storied Montgomery program. The Vikings’ past five appearances in the CIF tournament were losses, two at home and three away.

Montgomery reached the Northern California title game in 2003 and won the regional championship in 1998.

“To be the first team from here to do that in 11 years really feels great,” Orlik said. “That really gives us confidence.”

 

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