Surrounded by a cast of young stars, Central Catholic High senior Joshua Hamilton knows his time in the spotlight is nearing an end.
Still, he’s not quite ready to pass the baton.
Hamilton didn’t shoot well in the fourth-seeded Raiders’ 55-51 victory over No. 13 Monterey in the first round of the CIF State Division III Northern California regional tournament, but he was responsible for the game’s biggest points.
“I’m very confident in my game,” Hamilton said. “I know I can score the ball. Even when I’m missing from 3, I’ve got to keep shooting the ball because this is my team."
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With less than two minutes left and the Raiders trailing by two, Hamilton emerged from a scrum in the corner and triggered the fastbreak. Monterey put a body on Hamilton at the rim, but the Valley Oak League MVP absorbed the foul and kissed an off-balanced shot off the glass. His free throw made it 52-50.
Central Catholic outscored Monterey 6-1 in the final three minutes of the game.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve worked on finishing and keeping my eyes on the rim, even through contact,” said Hamilton, who netted 14. “I think it’s very important to finish through contact and play tough at all times.
“We had to get a bucket at that point. We were down one, so I knew we had to get a score. We were able to get a steal and get out and run."
Sophomore point guard Dayton Magana made three free throws in the final minutes to send the Raiders onto a second-round date with Half Moon Bay, which beat Rio Americano in its opener, 55-50.
Central Catholic won its 20th consecutive game, overcoming a barrage of 3-pointers by the rangy Toreadores. Monterey opened the game with seven consecutive 3-pointers.
“They don’t quit. Their physicality, their style; they keep attacking and they’re not afraid to shoot from 3,” Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson said of Monterey, the Central Coast Section runner-up. "We expected it, but they didn’t quite realize it until the game started. I was really happy with the way our guys adjusted."
Magana had 14 points and two nifty assists to 6-foot-6 sophomore Nic Sani at the start of the third quarter as the Raiders raced out to their biggest lead of the night, 40-33.
Sani finished with 12 points and five blocked shots, while 6-6 freshman Myles Clayton had five points and four blocked shots off the bench. He had three blocks during one sequence in the first quarter, energizing the hometown crowd.
“When they drive … I just want to play the best defense I can and get the team going,” said Clayton, whose length and versatility — he can guard the perimeter and has the green light to shoot from 3 — sparked the Raiders’ 66-56 victory over Beyer in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final.
“I know a lot of stuff goes to the seniors, but I try to stay focused and bring energy in the moments I get.”
Hamilton had high praise for his two tallest teammates, especially Clayton, who has been groomed for this moment. His older brother Malcolm Clayton is a three-year varsity starter and their father, Marzell Clayton, is Wilson’s fourth-year assistant.
“He’s only a freshman,” Hamilton said of Myles. “He still has a long time to go, but he’s going to break every record here by the time he’s done. He’s going to break everything — points, rebounds, assists, 3s, everything. He has a bright future."
He'll have friendly competition on the low block.
Sani tallied eight of his 12 points in the second half and followed Clayton’s block bonanza with an emphatic rejection of his own at the start of the second quarter. Sani smacked Mark Rimas’ shot off the back wall — above the cheerleaders ... above windows.
“Being able to blocks shots, rebound and shoot from outside, it’s important to keep the floor space,” Hamilton said. "We can go big and still be very versatile.”
Mohammed Adam had a game-high 21 points on six 3-pointers, including a trey just inside the logo that tied the game at 42-42 early in the fourth quarter.
Monterey’s top shooter, Tahjae Ordonio, was blanketed by Magana throughout and finished with 12 points. He nailed a 3 in transition with 2:42 left that gave Monterey its first lead since the middle of the second quarter, 50-49.
As dynamic as Adam and Ordonio were in spots, they struggled in the clutch.
After Hamilton’s end-to-end three-point play put Central Catholic back in the lead, Adam was whistled for a shot-clock violation coming out of a full timeout.
Trailing 53-50, Ordonio missed two of his three free throws after being fouled in the act of shooting a triple. Monterey made more 3s (11) than it did free throws (7 of 16).
Moments later, Adam fouled out, taking Monterey’s bid at an upset with him to the bench.
In their last two games, the Toreadores (19-9) squandered leads in the fourth quarter. Monterey led Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco by 10 in their Central Coast Section final, before gassing out in a 61-56 loss.
“They were making all their shot, but we stayed with it and played through adversity,” Hamilton said."It’s definitely frustrating” playing a team that shoots a lot of 3s, “but we had to get a hand out.”
Central Catholic and Half Moon Bay have history. The Raiders knocked the Cougars out of the Division IV regional tournament last year, 70-54.
The rematch is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Mark Gallo Health and Fitness Center.