All year, they’ve been waiting for this opportunity.
It’s been the season-long goal for the Mission Prep boys basketball team: a shot at redemption after falling to top-seeded Flintridge Prep in the semifinals of last year’s CIF-Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs.
On Tuesday, Mission Prep made that goal an actuality.
Zach Allmon has team-highs of 30 points and 20 rebounds as Mission Prep defeated Santa Clara 62-38, giving the Royals their second trip to the Division 5AA semifinals in as many seasons.
“That’s what competition is all about. We were a little disappointed with not quite making it to the finals last year,” Mission Prep coach Terrance Harris said. “We wanted a chance to be there at the end, and now we have it.
“They’ve stayed humble and kept working hard, and they’ve been working hard because they wanted a chance to get back to this spot. Anything can happen, and we’re going to give it our best effort.”
It’s been that kind of season for Mission Prep, which after going 21-5 in the regular season clinched the No. 4 overall seed in their division playoffs. The Royals then had a decisive 74-27 win over Nuview Bridge in their playoff opener, and then defeated Desert 61-43 in the next round.
That pitted the Royals against the Saints, a team which Mission Prep was already too familiar with. The Royals defeated Santa Clara 65-54 in the semifinals of this year’s Mission Prep Christmas Classic.
However, that win wasn’t easy. The Royals watched what was a 16-point advantage dwindle to three points in the second half. But Allmon and the Royals kept steady, and the Cal Poly-bound senior scored 29 points and grabbed 23 rebounds to lead Mission Prep into its first-ever berth in their tournament’s final.
And Tuesday, Allmon did it again. He used his tall stature to own the boards and paint, while also getting it done on the defensive end with four blocks.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Allmon said. “They’ve got big boys, and I’m not as hefty as they are, but I just played my game like I know how to, and it worked.”
The Royals got started early, racing out to a 9-0 lead halfway through the first quarter, before Santa Clara got its first bucket on a layup.
Allmon quickly responded with six points, including an emphatic slam dunk and a putback slam to give the Royals a 17-4 advantage through the first period.
Mission Prep struggled in the second, though, scoring just two points through the first four-and-a-half minutes. But Allmon scored off a jumper in the paint, and Andy Rowley sank a layup to make it 23-10 with three-and-a-half minutes left before the break.
The Royals then kept it going, and Allmon scored on the Royals’ final possession of the half for a 31-14 halftime lead.
There was no Santa Clara second-half run this time, however, as the Royals outscored the Saints 16-11 in the third quarter and didn’t let up fourth to clinch a semifinal road match-up against top-seeded St. Bernard on Friday.
“When we play like we just played, we can play anybody and compete,” Allmon said.