CIF basketball playoffs: Montgomery boys eliminated after 56-49 loss

Cosumnes Oaks player Jaaron Stallworth passes Montgomery High players Matt Hyman, left, and Zac Merriken, right, during Montgomery High School's home playoff game, March 14, 2015. (Erik Castro / for The Press Democrat)

Cosumnes Oaks player Jaaron Stallworth passes Montgomery High players Matt Hyman, left, and Zac Merriken, right, during Montgomery High School’s home playoff game, March 14, 2015. (Erik Castro / for The Press Democrat)

By ALLIE COLOSKY

FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Montgomery boys basketball team couldn’t hold a lead as the Vikings lost their footing in a 56-49 loss to Cosumnes Oaks on Saturday night on their home court.

The loss in the CIF State Division 2 tournament brought the Vikings’ season to an end.

“I think we played hard,” said head coach Tom Fitchie, “but I just don’t think it was as good as we’ve been playing.”

The Vikings started by chasing the Wolfpack in the first quarter, before Matt Hyman hit a bucket and then snagged a steal in transition to take Montgomery’s first lead. Senior Michael Septimo pushed the Vikings’ lead when he caught the rebound from his own shot and sunk the basket while he was in mid-air.

The Vikings led 22-16 heading into halftime.

The bread-and-butter duo of driving to the basket and having an advantage underneath was the key to their success all season, Fitchie said.

“That’s our game and it’s well enough for us, just not well enough for us tonight,” Fitchie said.

The ability to penetrate to the basket was crucial for the Vikings, Septimo said. “I was able to get to the rim on multiple occasions,” he said, “and even if I missed, I knew Erik (Poulsen) would be right there for the rebound.”

Montgomery continued to push against a very athletic and physical Cosumnes Oaks defense, Fitchie said, but the second half was not played to the Vikings’ potential.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the other team,” he said. “They were a little stronger and a little quicker and we just didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”

Three-pointers from Cosumnes’ Jeff Dresser and Eric Toles Jr. gave the Wolfpack the lead in the third quarter, but a big block from Montgomery’s Poulsen had the sea of red Vikings fans on the edge of their bleacher seats.

“They had a really big run in the third quarter and we just weren’t able to answer back,” Septimo said. “We just let them do their thing and we didn’t match them at that point.”

Down by three points in the fourth quarter, the Vikings couldn’t seem to make the plays they needed to, said Septimo, and the offense broke down in the final minute of play.

Toles scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half, sinking his six final points from the free-throw line in the remaining 30 seconds of the game.

“We knew the press was coming and it shouldn’t have given us that much trouble,” Fitchie said, “but a couple calls threw us off and I don’t think it should have.”

A technical foul, a block and the Wolfpack sinking seven of their nine free throws sealed Montgomery’s loss.

Septimo finished with 19 points and four rebounds, while Poulsen recorded 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the Vikings’ loss. Hyman finished with six points, four rebounds and two steals, while Zac Merriken added four points.

Joel Seitz and Jack Fitchie recorded two points and a free throw, respectively.

“This team is pretty one-of-a-kind,” Septimo said afterward. “I’m pretty proud to have been a part of it.”

The Vikings ended their season with a 21-12 overall record.

“You don’t define a season based on one game,” said coach Fitchie, “and I’ve enjoyed every single practice with them. That’s what sports are; you don’t get to play your best all the time.”