The Cubs opened this year’s playoff campaign in their own Leavery Gymnasium in a 7:00 p.m. matchup against Serra High School. The Cubs enter the game after a disappointing loss the previous game to rivals Harvard Westlake but look to bounce back in the single-elimination playoff format. The Cubs have an overall record of 21-6 versus Serra’s record of 11-17 entering the game.
Guard- 6’1” Senior Neil Owens
Guard- 6’1”Senior Mason Butler
Guard- 6’5” Senior CJ Jones
Forward- 6’4” Senior Anthony Lucenti
Center- 6’9” Senior James Keefe
The Cubs open the game by winning the tip and immediately transitioning to a Keefe layup. On the other end of the floor, Keefe intercepts the pass before the team finds Mason for the corner triple. Serra again turns the ball over after they get called for an illegal screen. The Cubs fail to score on consecutive possessions as Neil gets called for charging and a blatant foul against Keefe isn’t called. The Cubs get out of their funk when they find Keefe at the top of the key for a triple to put the team up 8-0. The Cavaliers respond with a fadeaway from the corner that finds the mark despite tough Cub defense. The Cubs show that the shot won’t deter them as Mason hits another three, this one also from the top of the key. Serra gets their second bucket right after when they put in a second chance layup. The Cubs turn the ball over right after the score and are forced to foul. The Cavaliers make one of two free throws but the Cubs get down the court quickly for a Keefe layup. Neil pulls up without hesitation after the Cavaliers miss another layup and the Cub lead is 16-6 after the triple. The three ball forces the Serra coach’s hand with the first timeout of the game, but the break doesn’t prove fruitful immediately as the team fouls on yet another illegal screen. Lucky for the Cavaliers, the Cubs make back to back poor passes and give up two layups as a consequence. The Cubs get Colby into the game and he shows that he is worthy to be on the court right away, hitting a tough layup to stop the run. After their third illegal screen, Neil drives to find a cutting Colby who hits a second layup in a row. The Cubs wait too long for the last shot and the quarter ends with a long shot from Serra that falls short.
The Cubs excellence in transition basketball has really shined in the first quarter. If they can keep getting steals and hitting threes this way, the Cubs could have a blowout on their hands.
The team that starts the second quarter is different from the squad that starts the game as Grant, Colby, and Jared are in the lineup. Grant drives and kicks to find CJ on the wing for an open three. The Cubs open the quarter with the triple. However, the Cubs give up, three straight baskets two layups and a three, before they retort. Colby hits a strong layup right before a deep Mason three ball. The Cubs can’t seem to stop Serra from driving to the rack, though, and they hit another layup easily. The Cubs sub the starters back into the game but Serra hits another three despite the fact. The lead is just 28-22 when the Cubs get the starting five with Colby instead of Lucenti into the game. Immediately after the substitution, the Cubs draw a foul with a Keefe post up attempt. The big man knocks down one of the two shots from the line directly before the Cubs switch into a 2-3 zone to throw off the Cavaliers. The Cubs stop Serra but give up a layup after trying to save the rebound from going out of bounds. Things only get worse for the home team when Neil is called for an offensive foul after gaining a clear path to the rim. The Cubs do finally get a stop on the other end, though, and Keefe earns more free throws to help the team’s cause. Keefe hits both shots from the one and one, transitioning the team seamlessly into a press. The Cubs come up with a steal but make a wild pass that results in a turnover. After more press defense, the Cubs get down the court quickly and win Colby a look from the free-throw line. Colby hits one of two and the lead is eight with a minute and forty left in the half. The Cubs get CJ a wide-open three from the corner, but he misses the shot. Colby makes an athletic play and Colby hits two free throws as a result of his efforts. The Cubs get into a transition frenzy where Keefe gets a monster dunk and the Cavaliers hit a deep three in the transition game. The play finally slows down when Mason earns a pair of free throws that he puts into the hoop. The Cubs steal the ball from their press and call a timeout to draw up a play for the last shot of the half. The ball gets knocked out of bounds with three seconds left in the half but the Cubs manage to get a three pointer off before time expires. The three falls just short and the team takes an eleven-point lead into the half.
The Cubs have a few keys to really put the game away in the second half: close out on threes for the opposition, stop producing bad turnovers, and win the transition game. The Cubs started out the game exceptionally well but regressed in the second quarter. Serra proved that they could get hot from distance both in transition and the half court, something problematic for the Cub defense. The Cubs only aided their opponents with some bad passes that led to easy layups and points for the Cavaliers. However, the team showed that it could hang on to the lead when they continued to stay in the game from outstanding free-throw shooting. The stat leaders at the half are James Keefe (10 points) and Serra’s Dominic Woods (13 points).
The five that begins the second half is the same five that started the game. The Cubs give up an offensive rebound that leads to a layup from the Cavaliers but respond right away with a layup of their own. The Cubs get bailed out by a botched layup by the Cavaliers but get called for a charging foul that gives the ball right back. The Cubs stop the team from scoring but are called for travelling and give up a triple directly after. The Cubs force up a bad shot but are bailed out when the ball falls out of bounds and in their favor. The chance garners a layup for Keefe and the Cavaliers miss their own look at the basket. Lucenti gets a sniff from behind the arc and converts before the Cubs give up a layup. The Cubs respond when Neil blows by his man for an open mid range shot but give up another layup right after the score. The Cavaliers come out in a press directly after calling a timeout and nearly produce a turnover; luckily, the Cubs get the ball to fall in their favor and end up with a Lucenti layup. It doesn’t help that they immediately give up a floater, but they show resilience with a Neil layup. The team looks slightly gassed from the heavy minutes and end up giving up a foul that leads to the Serra guard hitting one of two. The team remains unfazed, though, and find CJ for a corner three. Serra is on the positive end of a controversial foul that leads to double technicals, Mason picking up his first foul of the game. Serra hits a three after the fiasco but Colby drives for an and one layup. Both teams start to get into a bit of rough basketball, sending the Cubs into the bonus. Keefe breaks a defender’s ankles but the Cubs fail to hit the shot after the exciting move. Both teams pick up bad fouls before the Cavaliers try to hold for the last shot of the quarter. Serra hits a layup but the Cubs get down the court for a buzzer-beating triple that puts them up by 15.
The Cubs seem to have a response for every question that Serra poses them and have sent the opposition into serious foul trouble. The Cavaliers will struggle with the comeback when multiple key players have four fouls to begin the final frame.
The Cavaliers open the quarter with a look from three that they airball. Conversely, Neil gets nothing but net on his corner three. Serra hits one from the middle of the key and force multiple missed shots from the Cubs before getting down the court for a transition layup. The swing prompts a Cub timeout though they still foster a 14 point lead. The team turns the ball over right after the timeout but works the clock to get time off the board. Two bad fouls from Keefe means that he is subbed out with four fouls. Mason makes a stellar no-look pass before getting the ball right back for a triple that puts the Cubs up 13. The team then steals the ball, leading to a free throw conversion for Colby. The Cubs get out quickly after an airball and Mason finishes the transition layup. After that, the Cubs steal the ball and get an and one conversion from Colby. The Cubs force Serra into multiple bad threes and the game is practically out of reach as the Cubs are up 17 with just under four minutes remaining. Serra comes out of their timeout well by keeping the Cubs off the board but can’t seem to put the ball in the hoop themselves. The return of Keefe sees the Cubs move the ball to perfection but miss the wonderful chance they create. Mason drives after great ball movement and comes up with a beautiful assist that lets CJ hit a layup. The Cubs work the clock well and Keefe gets a big jam followed by a big block. The team begins to play circus ball as they make multiple decisions in search of the big play, leading by 13 with a minute left to play. Serra picks up a technical foul that lets Neil hit two free throws and gives the Cubs the ball. After they get the ball back, Neil gets fouled hard and hits two free throws. The points prompt the substitution of Perfitt, Uriel, Kresich, Paul, and James Nugent into the game. The new five blocks a shot but gives up two mid range jumpers before time expires.
The victory means that the Cubs advance to the second round of playoffs with a matchup against Pasadena that will take place at Loyola.