As the last minutes of last Tuesday’s CIF Northern California Regional Basketball Final ticked away, the realization that there would be no exhilarating comeback for the Pierce Bears this time and that their incredible season was coming to an end began to hit home.
Pierce, the No. 1 seed in Division V, could not overcome a tremendous defensive effort by visiting No. 3 San Domenico, a North Coast Section team from San Anselmo, and ultimately fell to the Panthers 58-37.
A standing room only crowd at Natalie Corona Gymnasium turned out to witness a rematch of a preseason contest won by the Bears back in December, but in the reprise Pierce had difficulty finishing on the offensive end and found themselves in the unenviable position of playing from behind the entire game.
Although down 26-21 at half, it was familiar territory for the Bears who had come from behind against Eastside College Prep in the previous game, but struggles at the free throw line where they missed all six attempts in the third quarter saw them outscored 13-8 in the period and down 10 going into the final eight minutes.
In the fourth quarter, turnovers proved critical, as even though both teams were careless, the Panthers were able to capitalize where the Bears were not.
Justin Mathews led Pierce with 14 points, but the Panther defense smothered the Bears’ sharp shooter for much of the contest.
Big man Alex High turned in a strong performance finishing with 11 points and working hard in the paint, but it wasn’t enough as just three other Bears broke into the scoring column.
Still, in spite of the loss, Pierce has no reason to hang its head after putting together an impressive season that included the deepest run into the state tournament in school history and farthest any county team has advanced in nearly 30 years.
After a few days to process the result, Coach Cody McCullough addressed the loss and season overall by saying, “San Domenico played a phenomenal game against us. Their coach said it was the best they had played all season and we really had no answer. It’s tough getting so far and so close to what would have ended up being a co-state championship, but without a doubt there is a lot to be proud of.”
McCullough then summed up his team’s achievements and looked forward to the future.
“That was our first home loss of the entire season. We only lost two games with a full team in which the five guys I wanted to start were able to. We won three out four preseason tournaments and went undefeated in league. Some of the guys are disappointed, but luckily for the majority of them there is an entire season ahead in which we can continue to get better and make another run,” said the first-year head coach.
Although the Bears lose starter Daniel Medina and sixth man Gentry Condrey to graduation, they return a formidable core of starters including Mathews, High, Eduardo Paiz and Luke Voorhees and as a result should be considered a top contender in 2021.
Pierce (25-8) finished the postseason as the NSCIF Division V runner up in addition to being a regional finalist in the Division V state tournament.