June 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

JSerra senior Aidan Fowler and teammates cherish milestone victory over Mater Dei

JSerra’s senior guard Aidan Fowler takes a shot during Wednesday’s game vs. Mater Dei. (Photo courtesy JSerra Athletics, Melissa Thomson).

Lions celebrate program’s first win vs. Monarchs.

JSerra High School’s boys basketball team created quite a buzz in the basketball community and around campus this week with an historic 68-62 victory over Trinity League rival Mater Dei, the No. 2-ranked team in the CIF Division 1 ratings.

The victory on Wednesday in front of the home fans was the first win for the program in school history and Mater Dei’s first league loss this season. The Lions (20-4, 4-3) hope to carry that momentum into Friday night’s league game vs. Orange Lutheran on the road.

JSerra, which is ranked eighth in Division 1, also plays St. Augustine Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei.

Senior Aidan Fowler led JSerra with 36 points, making 14 of 22 field goal attempts in Wednesday night’s victory, which avenged a loss to 78-67 loss to Mater Dei on Jan. 5 at Mater Dei.

Sebastian Rancik scored 13 points, seven in the fourth quarter and senior Korin Hull scored 12 points and had a big block and steal in the final 20 seconds which helped preserve the win, according to athletic officials.

JSerra rallied from a 39-29 halftime deficit to win in front of a capacity crowd.

“It’s definitely a big win for the program obviously,” Fowler said in an interview with OC Sports Zone Friday. “Our first win over Mater Dei, ever, we just came together as a collective and we really wanted it for our coach (Keith Wilkinson) because he wasn’t there to coach us and celebrate with us after the game. It was just a really big night.”

Fowler said the Lions were well prepared for the Monarchs (22-2, 6-1), who share the league lead with St. John Bosco going into Friday’s game with Servite.

“Being together, moving the ball, trusting each other and then just being assertive on defense, not letting them run their sets, that’s why we got the win,” Fowler said.

Fowler, a 5-10 guard, has been on the varsity for four years, but wasn’t able to experience the joy of winning in the previous match-ups against the Monarchs. He said the 36-point total was likely his best at JSerra.

“I would say my sophomore and junior year, it was pretty close,” he said. “I’ve been on varsity for four years, and they kicked my behind for three, obviously it’s my last year and I wanted to go out with a bang and I kind of just took it personal.”

Fans were exuberant after the game and the excitement carried over during the week on campus.

“Everyone was so happy and hyped up after we got the win, there were a lot of emotions right after the win,” Fowler said. “Everyone came up to me and the team saying ‘great job’ and then the next day at school everyone was hyped up and just congratulating us on the victory.”

The Lions are hoping for a successful finish in league play before getting ready for the CIF playoffs. Since the victory, there is speculation that JSerra solidified its standing in the CIF open division.

“Hopefully we finish Trinity 7-3 and hopefully make top eight for open division,” Fowler said. “It’s been one of my goals and obviously our team’s goals for a while. We’ve talked about it from the beginning of the season and we have the guys who can do it. I feel like this is the year to go do that.

“We’ve been together for so long, we know what we can do on the floor, and how we can contribute and there are a lot of guys who can do a lot of things and we’re very talented but we also play together very well too.”

Fowler said the Lions will take the court Friday vs. Orange Lutheran, thinking only about the game with the Lancers.

“I always tell our guys that we can’t look in the past and we can’t look in the future,” Fowler said. “We can only control what we can control. And that’s the now, and we just have to go in and take care of business.”

Coach Wilkinson will return as head coach in Friday’s game against Orange Lutheran after serving a six-game suspension from CIF, JSerra officials said Friday. Assistant Coach C.J. Cooper has been the acting coach.

“It’s going to be great having him back, obviously he was out for six games and we did miss him, but we always said good teams are led by coaches, and great teams are led by players and we have a great squad and we did pretty well without him, but obviously he is the head coach and obviously a leader on the team too so it’s going to be very, very helpful that he’s back,” Fowler said.

“Absolutely thrilled for our guys and the victory over Mater Dei,” Wilkinson said Friday by E-mail. “Proud of all our players, even the ones that didn’t play because of how hard and motivated we have been in practice the last few weeks. Our senior leadership has been incredible and it has really driven us to new heights.

“Learning from the fourth quarter Bosco game of how to not close a game and continuing to trust each other for 32 minutes to get a victory over such a talented and well coached team in Mater Dei was huge.

“An amazing job by our coaches CJ Cooper, Caleb DeGroot, Daniel Munoz and Dave King putting our players in position to be successful. Our community at JSerra and the parents, students and fans were fantastic and gave us one of the best crowds we have had in a long time for a home court advantage.”

As for Fowler, he’s hoping to play college basketball next season, but has not committed.

“I’m still looking at all possible options,” he said.

The priority now is help the Lions win a CIF title.

The goal:

“To go win the whole thing, if it’s open, go win that and then go to state and win that or if it’s Division 1, go win that whole thing and go to state,” he said.

Wilkinson, the coach, added the Lions want to be playing their best basketball going into the final four games.

“Our goal has been since the beginning to get into the open and our strength of schedule and record will hopefully be enough to get us there. That being said there are so many good teams in Southern California whether it is the open or Division 1 … it will be a battle and we are excited for the challenge.”

For full view, click on the photo:

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com