From its old bandbox gymnasium to its new multimillion dollar home, the Central Catholic High boys basketball team has enjoyed a unique home-court advantage.
The Raiders are unbeaten this season at the Mark Gallo Health and Fitness Center, an architectural marvel as far as high school gymnasiums go.
Central Catholic has won all nine of its home games, including victories over Monterey and Half Moon Bay to start the CIF State Northern California Division III regional tournament.
None of that matters to eighth-seeded Valley Christian of San Jose, which shook up the tournament with a 37-34 upset at No. 1 Branson of Ross. Justin Kidd buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
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The Warriors of the West Catholic Athletic League (16-13) snapped Branson’s 12-game winning streak and served up the Bulls’ first loss at home. Now Valley Christian puts another top seed in its cross hairs in the semifinal.
The Warriors travel to fourth-seeded Central Catholic (30-2) Tuesday. No. 2 Pleasant Valley hosts No. 3 University in the other semifinal.
After a string of upsets across the state, Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson isn’t overlooking Valley Christian, or downplaying its ability to win on the road. He just understands the importance of norms and rituals, especially in high-stake games like these.
“The home part — them making a drive — is always a help,” Wilson said following his team’s 49-44 victory over Half Moon Bay. “The crowd helps. The rituals we have here, the kids are dialing into what we do prior to the game, from the team meals and things like that. It’s a bonding experience for them and it really helps.”
Central Catholic is 18-3 since moving into the Mark Gallo Health and Fitness Center, including 9-0 this season.
On Saturday, Joshua Hamilton had 19 points, four assists and two steals in a victory over Half Moon Bay. The Raiders led by as many as 14 in the third quarter, but needed free throws later to hold off the hard-charging Cougars.
Hamilton, the Valley Oak League MVP, has scored in double figures in every game this season.
Sophomore point guard Dayton Magana had nine points and five steals, while Malcom and Myles Clayton combined for eight points and 12 rebounds as the Raiders extended their season-best winning streak to 21 games.
Central Catholic is looking to advance to its first Northern California final in four years. In 2014, the Raiders played Alameda’s St. Joseph Notre Dame in the Division V final, losing 54-42.