Bishop Diego celebrates its first CIF Southern Section boys' basketball title in program history. | Credit: Victor Bryant

Dana Hills senior guard Griffin Haugh dribbled into the corner in the final moments and stepped back for a potential game-winning three-pointer as the clock expired, but the shot was off line and the Bishop Diego boys’ basketball team secured their first CIF Southern Section Championship in school history with a 54-52 victory on Friday night at the Brick House. 

Two years ago the Cardinals reached the CIF-SS Division 5AA championship game and lost on a buzzer beater to Arrowhead Christian and many of the seniors on this year’s team, who  endured that experience were able to celebrate redemption.

“That buzzer beater, I remember that from two years ago. We were up by two with ten seconds left in this game and they went for a three-pointer. My heart dropped, but they missed. I’m so happy,” said Bishop Diego senior guard Tyler Williams. “The same group has been together for like two or three years now and we’re all friends on and off the court. We are the tightest group around town and we trust each other day in and day out.”

It was a tight contest from the start and the largest lead for either team throughout the game was five points. The visiting Dolphins took a 18-13 lead on a driving layup by freshman Collin Haugh.

However, Bishop Diego came back with a 7-3 run capped off by a pull-up jumper by Williams that cut the deficit to 21-20. A steal and dunk in transition by Dana Hills big man Adam Pellini increased the Dolphins lead to 25-20. But the Cardinals closed the first half on a 15-6 run as Quran Gossett grabbed a steal and nailed a deep three-pointer as the halftime buzzer sounded increasing the Bishop Diego lead to 35-31.

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Dana Hills outscored Bishop Diego 14-10 in the third quarter and the two teams entered the fourth quarter tied 45-45. 

A corner three-pointer by Williams put the Cardinals ahead 48-45 with 7:10 remaining in the fourth quarter and a steal led to a transition layup by Gossett that increased the lead to 50-45 with 5:40 remaining.

Dana Hills wouldn’t quit and a three-point play by Pellini tied the score at 52-52 with 1:55 remaining. Bishop Diego senior captain Makaio Morphy put the Cardinals ahead for good by converting two free throws with 41.6 seconds remaining that made the score 54-52.

The Dolphins had two late possessions with the opportunity to tie the score or take the lead, but came up empty on both trips, including the final three-pointer at the buzzer.

“These guys love giving me a heart attack. I’m really super intense, they are super calm and lucky for us it’s the perfect balance,” said Bishop Diego coach James Coronado. It wasn’t our perfect game, but we made enough plays to win the game.”

Williams led Bishop Diego with 21 points. Morphy chipped in 14 points. The Cardinals will move on to the CIF state tournament next week.

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