By Trevor Horn
AMERICAN CANYON - It was the new kid on the block against the old guard.
The elder statesman prevailed this time, but the future looks bright for a young and energetic Capital Christian boys basketball team.
It was the second CIF Northern California Regional Division V championship game for Capital Christian, and all five Cougars starters are underclassmen.
It was a different story for their opponent, St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda, vying for a record ninth NorCal regional title and winners of the last two Division V titles.
The Pilots made 11 consecutive free throws down the stretch to defeat Capital Christian 50-36 at American Canyon High School. St. Joseph advanced to the Division V state championship game at noon Friday at Sleep Train Arena. The Pilots will play the winner of Saturday night's late Southern California final between Horizon Christian of San Diego and San Gabriel Academy.
"We battled and went through adversity and missed some shots, and we didn't play the game we wanted to play," Capital Christian coach Devon Jones said. "St. Joseph played well and was the better team."
Temidayo Yussef led St. Joseph (25-11) with 18 points and Marcus Harris had 17.
Nifae Lealao led Capital Christian (26-5) with 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Trey Belton and Uchenna Iroegbu scored nine points each, and Belton had a game-high 11 rebounds.
Capital Christian sophomore Justice Shelton-Mosley made a three-pointer as time ran out in the first quarter to tie the score 11-11.
The Cougars then took the lead on a three-pointer by Iroegbu on the second possession of the second quarter, but St. Joseph used a press to slow the pace nearly to a crawl.
Despite winning numerous championships, St. Joseph coach Don Lippi said the nerves never seem to go away. The longtime Bay Area coach said he was up at 2 a.m. Saturday asking his wife if she wanted to go to the grocery store "just to do something."
On the opposite side, Jones is in his first year as Capital Christian's coach. Despite the loss, he knows that with 13 of his 15 players returning, greater things are expected next season for the two-time reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champions.
"I am proud of the boys, and I am very excited for the future," Jones said. "We have everyone returning. I am proud of our season and proud to see where we take this in the future."