Bishop Diego students storm the court as the final buzzer sounds. | Credit: Victor Bryant

A second-half surge boosted the Bishop Diego boys’ basketball team to the promise land as the Cardinals defeated Vistamar 59-50 in the CIF-SS Division 5AA semifinals on Friday night.

Up next is the championship game against Arrowhead Christian, which defeated top-seeded Valley Torah 60-45.

“We had a three-year plan and it’s happening in the first year,” said Bishop Diego coach James Coronado. “I can’t say enough about them. I think they’re too young to know better.”

The Cardinals (21-11) only have one senior on their roster but have displayed poise beyond their years in back-to-back victories over higher-seeded teams that came in with a combined record of 52-7. The young and versatile group has thrived in its raucous home environment and exceeded all expectations

Against Vistamar (25-5) Matthew Cunningham led the way with 16 points, but the Cardinals boasted a balanced attack as three other players reached double figures, and another finished with nine points.

Matthew Cunningham celebrates a basket plus the foul.

“We were just working the ball around and running coach’s offense,” Cunningham said. “Everyone got each other involved and we were able to get to the rim.”

Vistamar led 24-23 at halftime, but Bishop Diego outscored the visiting Vikings 21-12 in the third quarter. Tyler Williams knocked down two three-pointers during the decisive third quarter run. Kai Morphy and Cunningham also connected from behind the arch during the third quarter.

The hot-shooting stretch was too much for Vistamar to overcome.

“We got up five 30-25 and then there were a couple time in transition that we didn’t find the shooters,” said Vistamar coach David Polett. “I think we gave up three three-pointers in a span of two minutes.

“We had all the momentum at the start of the half to get up five. It was probably our biggest lead of the game and then we let it get away from us when they went on that run and we were never able to respond.”

Vistamar forward Royce Samaniego led all scorers with 21 points. In addition to Cunningham’s production, Kai Morphy and Tyler Williams added 12 points apiece. Bryan Trejo chipped in 10 points and Connor Street contributed nine points.

The Cardinals will take on Arrowhead Christian at a neutral location on Saturday, Feb. 29. Time and place have yet to be determined.


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