Justin Mazzulla put the team on his back in the second half to help Bishop Hendricken (Warwick, R.I.) rally past Sequoia (Redwood City, Calif.), 60-56, in the semifinals of the Punahou Basketball Invitational at Hemmeter Fieldhouse on Thursday night.
"The culture of our school and program is toughness, resiliency, defense, fight and teamwork. I am proud of our guys because we showed all those things consistently throughout the game. We got down by a few, but never gave up and we kept battling," said Bishop Hendricken coach Jamal Gomes.
The Hawks advance to the championship game to play host Punahou at 8 p.m. on Friday night. The Cherokees play Santa Margarita Catholic High School (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) for third place.
The George Washington University signee and last year's Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year, scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter and his four final points helped seal the deal for the Hawks.
"Justin is our leader and he's an outstanding team player. It was no doubt whose hands the ball is going to be in at the end. He wants the ball," said Gomes, on Mazzulla.
The Cherokees reclaimed the lead, 56-53 after a drive by Myles Nunez. Isaiah Mylers' two-hand slam tied the game at 56 and the Hawks got the ball back with 1:07 remaining and called timeout. Bishop Hendricken milked time off the clock and Mazzulla's layup in the paint put them up, 58-56 with 3.9 seconds left.
"I have faith in my teammates and they have faith in me. Everyone counts on me to do a lot for them and I felt it would be in my best interest to help them out," said Mazzulla.
JNai Leblanc inbounded the ball to Kyle Pruhsmeier, but Pruhsmeier turned it over after throwing it out of bounds near the Bishop Hendricken bench. Mazzulla received the ball and was fouled with 0.8 seconds. He sank both foul shots to complete a 7-0 run to end the game.
Bishop Hendricken overcame a hot shooting night from the Cherokees, who hit 12 3-pointers for the game. Sequoia had three players score in double figures with Leblanc and Pruhsmeier (13 points) and Nunez (11 points).
"That was a good team. We changed our game plan in the second half to get out on the 3-point shots. I felt we were getting held up on screens, we brought the fight with us in the second half. If we can do that the entire season, we're going to be a tough team going back to Rhode Island," said Gomes.
"We are a defensive team and it was discouraging and they shot the ball tremendously and we had to work to get back. Our team had a lot of fight in them and that's how we got back in the game," said Mazzulla.
Jalen Watson scored 14 points and hit four 3-pointers while Myles added 15 points for the Hawks.
Sequoia took an early 6-0 lead after a pair of 3's from Leblanc and Nunez to force an early timeout from Bishop Hendricken.
Ball movement led to open looks as the Cherokees drained five of their eight first half 3's in the second quarter. Sequoia went up by as much as 12 before taking a 35-26 lead at halftime.
The Hawks started the third quarter on a 7-0 run and Mylers' basket tied the game at 35. Bishop Hendricken would take the lead for the first time, 44-43 after a layup from Bobby Fiorito. The Cherokees reclaimed the lead on a pair of 3's, but the game was tied at 49 going into the fourth. Bishop Hendricken outscored Sequoia, 23 to 14 in the quarter.
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