Following its nine-point loss to Crespi in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA championship game this past Friday, coach Terrance Harris said his Mission Prep boys basketball team began preparation Monday for the state regional playoffs with what he dubbed “the best practice we’ve had the entire season.”
Or as senior Mike Massey described it, “We want to keep this ride going as long as we can.”
The ride continued in emphatic fashion on Wednesday.
All 15 Royals who dressed saw time on the court, 10 of them made at least one bucket, and Mission Prep jumped out to a 27-point first-quarter lead en route to a 78-39 win over visiting Bakersfield Christian in the opening game of the Division 4 state bracket.
“After that heartbreaking loss, we wanted to push ourselves back up,” said Royals junior Matthew Blaney, who scored a game-high 24 points. “I think we did, and I think this win is really going to help us moving forward.”
Mission Prep (25-7) forced nine turnovers in the first quarter and 10 in the third, outscoring the Eagles (17-14) by a combined 58-11 in those two quarters while giving its bench extensive minutes throughout.
Leading scorer Quinton Adlesh — coming off a game-high 25 points in the 61-52 loss to Crespi — took just one shot Wednesday, a driving layup in the second quarter to put the Royals up 37-6.
Instead, the Columbia-bound senior spent most of his time on the court feeding his teammates, dishing eight first-half assists and 11 in all.
“He tells me early in the game to just run,” said Blaney, one of the main recipients of Adlesh’s passes. “We were connecting tonight, and we did a really good job getting off to a great start.”
Mission Prep led 31-4 after the first quarter, which allowed Harris to filter in his bench as early as the second quarter.
“Our second team and our third team, we push our first team to get better and better,” said Massey, who sunk a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third. “We started this year thinking the best fight and the best competition we are going to get is in practice, so we brought it every day.
“From first to third, there’s not much of a drop off — except for Quinton Adlesh, the best player we will ever have.”
The blowout signaled a bittersweet homecoming of sorts for Bakersfield Christian coach Brian Dignan, a 1995 San Luis Obispo High graduate who also spent time as a player and assistant coach at Cuesta College.
“It’s great to be back in San Luis, I love this town,” Dignan said. “It’s great to coach against old friends and great people. I feel bad we got our butts whooped by 40, but they’re doing a great job with those guys.”
Carter Gran finished with 12 points — all in the first quarter — for Mission Prep, which also got 10 from Brandon Jones, seven from Massey and six each from Sal LaCasto and Max Basile.
The Royals will travel to Campbell Hall for the second round Saturday after the Vikings defeated View Park 78-64 in their first-round matchup. The two teams played in the Mission Prep Christmas Classic with UCLA-bound Aaron Holiday and Campbell Hall winning 56-48 on Dec. 22, 2014 — the last time a team beat the Royals on their home floor.
The Vikings also endured a somber end to their Southern Section run, falling to Maranatha in the Division 4A final played at the same site last week just before Mission Prep faced the top-seeded Celts for the 4AA crown.
While that game didn’t go the way the Royals had hoped and the defeat stung deeper than others, the coaching staff and entire roster returned to practice Monday with renewed focus, energy and purpose.
“Really what I tried to talk to these kids about is basketball is a life tool,” Harris said. “We experience loss, we experience disappointment, we experience heartbreak. It won’t be the last time it happens in your life, so let’s not let this keep you from advancing.
“It’s one thing to say it, but for these kids to come out and really believe that we can pick ourselves up and keep moving, it was good to see.”