After two years of inactivity, the California State Basketball Championship games return

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The state basketball championships at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center on Friday and Saturday couldn’t come soon enough. It’s been three years since the state’s prized two-day event was played and two years since California Interscholastic Federation Executive Director Ron Nocetti made the difficult announcement that the 2020 event has been canceled due to serious concerns over a growing global pandemic.

The decision came 24 hours before the start of the state championships – the 40th annual event – ​​and about 12 hours after New Orleans Pelicans players refused to go to the field at Golden 1 due to problems. of coronavirus.

Twenty-three of the 24 regional title matches had been completed. Teams fought for months and persevered for a chance to play for the ultimate prize in a beautiful NBA arena.

But it was not to be.

“It was an incredibly difficult decision to cancel an event that our student-athletes have been looking forward to and working towards since the start of the season,” Nocetti said that day. “Telling a team that their season will not be determined on the court, whether it’s a women’s water polo team or a division 6 basketball team and a division team open, is incredibly difficult and in many ways not fair. That said, we’re not going to put a student-athlete’s health at risk for the benefit of playing for a championship.

Each team had a story, a journey left unfinished. Mitty’s daughters were aiming for not just a seventh state title, but a possible national crown. Behind Metro Player of the Year Aidan Mahaney, the Campolindo-Moraga boys were aiming for a second straight crown. The St. Mary’s-Berkeley boys were in the final stages of a Cinderella season and were hoping for a surprising Division 3 crown.

“The guys were excited to play in an NBA arena,” St. Mary’s coach Rich Buckner said. “Going through the same tunnels and playing on the same pitch as some of their favorite players would have been special. This team was special.

Ahead of Saturday’s semi-finals, 28 Metro teams this season had the chance to make those dreams come true on March 11-12.

Here are some of their stories after some intense first and second round action.

• The Division 1 seeded Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton boys won two games and needed two gymnasiums to claim a crazy 77-70 quarter-final against Oakland Tech (23-5) on Thursday. A power outage at SHP’s gymnasium early in the third quarter forced teams to move a mile down the road to Menlo School, where the Gators, after a 90-minute delay, earned their 25th win in 29 games . Aidan Braccia, making a late case for Subway Player of the Year, had 30 points, Emmer Nichols 16 and Sachit Sinha 14 for the Gators, after their first state title (the school’s girls team in at five). Omar Staples Jr. had 19 points and Ahmaree Muhammad 14 for Tech.

• The Menlo girls (18-7), who had just beaten Caruthers 59-55 at home before the boys D1 game took over their gymnasium, won four state titles under the coach John Paye, including in 2019. Sharon Nejad, the team’s leading scorer (11.5 per game) and rebounder (13.7), started in the 2018-19 squad.

• The Mitty girls, coached by one of the best in the country in Sue Phillips, continue to charge with an influx of big, talented and disciplined players. (Seven of 12 are at least 6 feet tall.) Heading into Saturday’s Open Division home game against Clovis West (28-3), the Monarchs (28-1) had won 19 straight, including a 74- 36 in the quarter-final against the San Ramon Valley. -Danville, which was ranked 15th in the state. Clovis West handed Mitty a 44-40 loss in the 2017 Open Division State Finals that cost the Monarchs a possible mythical national title.

• Carondelet-Concord (25-2) is the only team to beat Mitty this season and that’s why they got the seed and a first-round bye. Coached by former Miramonte-Orinda coach Kelly Sopak (in his second season), the Cougars are led by point guard Talana Lepolo, sniper Nya Epps and a host of big, physical and talented players. The Cougars hosted Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills, which defeated Pinewood-Los Altos Hills 51-48 in the quarterfinals.

• The Campolindo Boys (27-1) started their home game with Riordan (20-8) on one of the most impressive streaks in recent Bay Area history, especially for a public school. The Cougars, ranked No. 1 all season by The Chronicle, have won 21 straight, 46 of 47 and 45 straight against California opponents. Without the pandemic, Campolindo could possibly be aiming for four straight state titles, all with Steven Dyer as coach and Mahaney as point guard.

MaxPreps lead writer Mitch Stephens covers high school sports for The San Francisco Chronicle.

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