SACRAMENTO — North Hollywood Campbell Hall became the first boys' basketball team from Southern California to record an unbeaten season in 15 years, using a 29-point performance from Joe Ford to defeat Berkeley St. Mary's, 74-53, in the state Division IV championship game Saturday in Arco Arena.
"We deserve some respect," said the Pacific-bound Ford, who made 11 of 16 shots and had 11 rebounds to help the Vikings finish 32-0.
The last Southland boys' team to finish unbeaten was Oxnard Santa Clara (28-0) in 1990, when the Saints won the Division IV state title.
The 6-foot-4 Ford scored 11 consecutive points during the second and third quarters, many on acrobatic moves. He also was a standout on defense, frustrating 6-6 Gonzaga-bound Larry Gurganious, who had 21 points and 16 turnovers.
"We built [Gurganious] to be [Michael] Jordan so Joe would be pumped up," Coach Terry Kelly said. "He loves a defensive challenge."
Campbell Hall's success can be traced to early-season injuries. Three starters were sidelined, which enabled others to gain valuable experience. On Saturday, senior Conor Turley scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, and freshman Jrue Holiday had 15 points for the Vikings, whose superior depth wore down the Panthers.
"Our season wasn't built to go unbeaten," Kelly said. "I had no idea our sophomores and freshman would develop the way they did."
Ford showed he might be one of the most underrated players on the West Coast. In three seasons, he helped Campbell Hall to an 83-7 record.
"I got healthy and started picking up my game during the playoffs," Ford said. "That's when they needed me most."
Kelly deserves credit for the way he helped his players improve individually and as a team. He's a fourth-year coach who moved to California from Fort Myers, Fla.
"It's special," he said of the unbeaten season. "It's something no one can ever beat, only duplicate."