May 24, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Crean Lutheran’s big rally falls short in CIF playoff game against Bishop Montgomery

Koat Keat of Crean Lutheran puts up the ball in Tuesday’s playoff game. (Photos courtesy Crean Lutheran Shutterbugs, Howard Lyon, Ted Rigoni and John Luciano).

No. 4 seeded Crean Lutheran staged a furious second-half comeback but came up short and fell to No. 8 seeded Bishop Montgomery 62-59 in a second round game of Pool Play in the CIF Open Division boys basketball playoffs Tuesday night at Crean Lutheran.

The Saints (22-5), who lost to Damien last Friday in their playoff opener, will travel to Corona on Friday and play No. 1 Centennial to close out the pool play. The Knights (19-3) will travel to Damien on Friday with hopes of advancing to the championship.

Crean Lutheran’s Koat Keat led all scorers with 23 points. Keat and teammate, Vyctorius Miller, who scored 22 points, were spectacular as the duo rallied the Saints back from a 19-point third-quarter deficit and cut the lead to 62-59 on Keat’s bucket with 31 second remaining.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Crean Lutheran fouled Kelcy Phipps on the ensuing possession and Phipps missed the front end of a one and one. The Saints quickly moved the ball to the front court with a chance to tie the score but Miller was called for a controversial foul with eight seconds left giving the ball back to Bishop Montgomery.

“I thought Vyctorius was hooked prior to the call against him,” said Crean Lutheran Coach Nate Klitzing.

The Saints immediately fouled as soon as the Knights inbounded the ball and this time, Kyle Russell missed a free throw with six seconds remaining.

Following a Saints timeout, Parker Tuttle inbounded the ball to Miller who dribbled the length of the floor, but his 3-point attempt from the top of the key hit off the iron as the final seconds ticked off, securing the win for Bishop Montgomery.

“We responded from adversity in the second half,” said Miller. “We didn’t want to lose our last home game of the season. Our fans had our backs and as one of the leaders of this team, I wanted to help lead us back to a victory.”

The Knights appeared to blow the game wide open as they started the third-quarter on a 12-0 run. Kristopher Krause’s basket with 5:22 left in the quarter gave Bishop Montgomery a 47-28 lead.

However, Keat, Miller and Darrell Morris helped the Saints battled their way back into the game. Patrick Miranda’s free thrown trimmed the lead to 51-42 at the end of third quarter. 

“Keat and Vyctorius are special players and they, along with Morris, picked it up and helped us claw back into the game,” Klitzing said. “It was our biggest deficit of the season and we showed a lot of character coming back. Vyctorius (a sophomore) is sensational and this is only his first year of high school basketball. He’s just getting going.”

Keat and Miller combined for 26 points in the second half. Miller coverted two free throws with 1:18 left to cut the lead to 60-57, setting the stage for a dramatic ending.

“Our defense applied a lot pressure in the second half and that helped us get back into the game,” said Keat. “We need to come back strong on Friday and not give up, you can never give up.”

Will Smith led Bishop Montgomery with 16 points and Phipps added 11 points. The game was tied at 17-17 after the first quarter and the Knights built a 35-28 halftime lead.

“Our run at the beginning of the second half made a big difference because we were just hanging on there at the end,” said Bishop Montgomery Coach Doug Mitchell. “We didn’t help ourselves at the free throw line but it’s a good win for us.”

Klitzing said the Saints have automatically qualified for the state tournament which will tip off following the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone