NCS basketball championships: Vikings worn down in 71-57 loss

BY HOWARD SENZELL

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

El Cerrito wore Montgomery down in the second half to win the North Coast Section Division 2 championship 71-57 Saturday night in Moraga.

Montgomery's Erik Poulsen goes up for two as El Cerrito's Aaron Banks defends during the North Coast Section Division 2 championship game held at St. Mary's College of California, Saturday, March 7, 2015. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Montgomery’s Erik Poulsen goes up for two as El Cerrito’s Aaron Banks defends during the North Coast Section Division 2 championship game held at St. Mary’s College of California, Saturday, March 7, 2015. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

In the game played at St. Mary’s College, the No. 2 Vikings led the top-seeded Gauchos 24-21 late in the second quarter.

El Cerrito made a 3-point shot at the buzzer to grab a 29-26 halftime lead.

The Gauchos began extending their advantage after intermission and had a 38-30 cushion midway through the third quarter. The lead ballooned to 57-39 early in the fourth.

“We played pretty well,” Vikings head coach Tom Fitchie said. “We were right with them the first half but couldn’t sustain it.

“We turned the ball over nine times in the second half and a few of those turned into easy baskets,” he added. “El Cerrito is big, strong and athletic. They were more like a junior college team.”

The coach said El Cerrito is “the best team we’ve played. No one in the NBL plays they way they do.”

The Vikings “weren’t scared or intimidated, we just ran into a better team,” Fitchie added.

Erik Poulsen led the Montgomery offense with 21 points. The 6-foot-11 senior averaged 22 points per game over his last three NCS games.

Point guard Michael Septimo scored 17, including eight in the first quarter.

For El Cerrito, Carlos Johnson led the way with 22. Tyrell Alcorn contributed 20.

Montgomery was seeking its sixth NCS title and its record now stands at 21-11.

The Gauchos extended their winning streak to 12 while their overall record improved to 29-3.

Both teams will be invited to the CIF State Tournament. The bracket will be unveiled this afternoon.