MLK roundup: De La Salle stifles SoCal opponent, stars in shine in Branson-St. Joseph showdown

MLK roundup: De La Salle stifles SoCal opponent, stars in shine in Branson-St. Joseph showdown

Boys basketball

De La Salle 68, Crean Lutheran-Irvine 49

Alec Blair was in his element Monday. Stealing passes. Making shots. Grabbing rebounds. Handing out assists.

Disappearing after the game. (OK, maybe the latter wasn’t part of the plan).

Then smiling when he returned to the locker room for a postgame media interview and a meeting with his team.

De La Salle broke open a competitive game at its Martin Luther King Jr. Classic against Crean Lutheran-Irvine with a dominating third quarter, one led by its star player.

Blair finished with just 11 points — six in the third period — but he does so much more than score to make the Spartans hum.

“I always say he’s just such a special talent,” DLS coach Marcus Schroeder said. “I could be here for a long time and maybe never coach a guy like him. We’re lucky to have him. We kind of took the game in the third quarter. That kind of separated us and he had a lot to do with it.”

De La Salle led 31-26 at halftime.

By the time the fourth quarter started, the Spartans had widened the advantage to 56-31.

Blair assisted on a couple of 3-pointers. He stole the ball and coasted in for a dunk. He missed a shot, jumped high for the rebound and then threw down a one-handed slam.

What changed?

“Coach got on me a little bit,” said Blair, who added 10 rebounds and six assists and was named player of the game. “I am not going to lie to you. He kind of gave me a little extra motivation. Had to go out there and play a little bit harder, with a little more intensity. We did just that.”

Leo Ricketts added 10 points, David Balogun finished with nine points and Ibrahim Monawar and Arshawn Salkhi had eight points each.

The Spartans improved to 16-3. Crean Lutheran is 10-9.

So …

Where did Blair go after the game?

“My childhood coaches came down to watch me play,” Blair said. “Means a lot. I am blessed in that regard.”

All in all, it was a pretty good MLK day for DLS and its junior standout.

St. Joseph-Santa Maria 69, Branson 66

After De La Salle’s victory, a packed gymnasium was treated to a thriller between North Bay powerhouse Branson and last season’s NorCal Open Division champion St. Joseph.

Tounde Yessoufou, one of the top recruits in the junior class, scored 30 points for St. Joseph to outduel Branson’s Illinois-bound star Jase Butler, who had 33 points but only seven after halftime.

“The No. 1 priority is to have fun and to show that they didn’t pay for their tickets for nothing,” Yessoufou said about the crowd.

Trailing by two, Branson had a chance to take the lead with three free throws in the final seconds but only made one. A few moments later, a potential game-tying heave went wide for Branson.

Yessoufou took over in the fourth quarter with an array of drives, dunks and brutally-effective post-ups.

“My mentality is to dominate, you know, like the mamba mentality,” Yessoufou said.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tounde Yessoufou. This St. Joseph-Santa Maria star is BIG TIME | #MLKClassic@joseph_dycus
@GReeves23⁩ ⁦

— Darren Sabedra (@DarrenSabedra) January 16, 2024

Teammate Julius Price scored 13 points. 

Semetri Carr had 11 points for Branson.  

St. Joseph might have to play against NorCal teams to return to the state final. One opponent could be the MLK host, DLS.

“We watched a little bit of (their game), and they’re solid,” St. Joseph coach Tom Mott said. “Blair is phenomenal, and the new big guy they have is solid as well. So you know, maybe we’ll see them down the road as well.”

Moreau Catholic 51, Redwood 49

Andrew Placido had 13 points and seven rebounds to lead Moreau to a hard-fought victory in the opening game at De La Salle’s MLK Classic. The Mariners improved to 9-7. Redwood slipped to 11-10. The game tipped off at 8:45 a.m.

Isaiah Clendinen, a freshman guard, had eight points and Cole Loud grabbed nine rebounds for Moreau. The Mariners also got seven points from Jalen Arnold.

Girls basketball

Sacred Heart Cathedral 66, Sac Joaquin Memorial 53

The Fightin’ Irish raced past Sac Joaquin Memorial 66-53 at O’Dowd’s MLK showcase thanks to a big game from their backcourt star Reza Po

The explosive scorer put in a game-high 28 points, including five 3-pointers. Fellow guard Aniyah Versosa also scored 14 points and made four 3-pointers, while Kiana Moniz also scored 14 points. 

Sacred Heart Cathedral improved to 11-2 on the season. 

No. 20 Salesian 53, Priory 43

Salesian improved to .500 when the Pride took care of business against Priory 53-43 at O’Dowd. Salesian’s fifth win in its last six games saw the Sawyers star for the Richmond private school. 

Janiya Sawyer scored 13 points, and Jamia Sawyer scored 10. Ayla Rege put in 13 points, and point guard Madalyn Kanazawa put in nine points while also handing out nine assists. Salesian improved to 8-8. 

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Natalie Neumann led Priory with 14 points, and Ugreat Daniels scored 12 points. Priory dropped to 7-6. 

Pinole Valley 65, San Leandro 26

Pinole Valley scored the first 15 points of the game and never looked back as the Spartans routed San Leandro 65-26 in the first game of the Bishop O’Dowd MLK Day showcase. 

Milan Jackson and Kendall Campbell each scored 13 points for the Spartans, while senior Caelan DeVera scored 12 in the non-league matchup. Pinole Valley improved to 7-11.

Meanwhile, Melina Ramirez put in 10 points and Ravyn Martin scored 9 for San Leandro, which dropped to 5-10.