Alemany guard Max Guercy drives to the basket between Sacred Heart defenders… (Steve Yeater / Associated…)
Reporting from Sacramento Trailing by eight points at halftime, in foul trouble and getting wiped out in the rebounding department, Mission Hills Alemany faced lots of obstacles against San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral in the Division III state championship basketball game Saturday night at Power Balance Pavilion.
At the same time, there was a deep belief that when the game was going to be decided in the second half, the Warriors' two season-long standouts, Marqueze Coleman and Max Guercy, would find a way to come through.
It happened. Guercy's court leadership and 19 overall points rallied the Warriors. And when Coleman made two free throws with 9.5 seconds left, his 26th and 27th points of the game, it clinched a 71-67 victory, giving Alemany its first state championship in the 55-year history of the Catholic school.
"It's the greatest feeling I've had in Alemany history," Guercy said.
Said Coleman: "Man, I can't even talk. I'm excited, baby."
A long caravan of eight buses that brought 300 Alemany students to Sacramento headed home with lots to talk about.
It was a rough first half for the Warriors (33-4), who were outrebounded, 22-11, and were called for 12 fouls, including two technicals, in falling behind, 40-32.
"I told Marqueze at halftime the key was rebounding," Guercy said. "In the first half they killed us rebounding. We knew what to do in the second half. Marqueze did a great job."
Alemany outrebounded Sacred Heart in the second half, 22-16. Fouls began to even up. And Alemany made the plays down the stretch, with the Nevada-bound Coleman making nine of 17 shots and seven of nine from the free-throw line.
Lots of credit goes to Alemany's 35-year-old coach, Tray Meeks, who maintained his composure when calls weren't going his team's way. Jerico Richardson and Bear Henderson each fouled out.
Josh Fox had 19 points and Taylor Johns had 13 points and 19 rebounds for Sacred Heart (28-6).
"Max and Marqueze did what they do," Meeks said.
They helped Alemany win four titles — Mission League, Southern Section 3A, Southern California Division III Regional and state.