MORAGA — The drive to the gym is a little different when winning is necessary to continue playing. Aidan Mahaney felt it as he made his way to the court where he and his Campolindo boys basketball teammates have celebrated many great moments in a truly remarkable run of success.
They added to the list Saturday night.
In what could be called the de facto Bay Area championship game, Campolindo elevated its defense to another galaxy — yes, it was that good — and got plenty of scoring from Mahaney and Cade Bennett to rout Archbishop Riordan 62-44.
The outcome moves the top-seeded Cougars into the Northern California Open Division championship game at home Tuesday night against third-seeded Modesto Christian, a 48-44 winner Saturday over second-seeded Clovis West.
“My first game with win-or-go-home (this season),” Mahaney said. “My emphasis was just to play really hard and leave no regrets.
“I think I did that tonight.”
Mahaney scored 24 points and Bennett added 17 — all but four in the second half — to lead Campo’s offense. Both made numerous drives to the basket for points, some easy, some requiring creativity at the rim.
But it was the defense that turned what was expected to be a tight matchup between Central Coast Section Open Division champion Riordan, coming off a road win Wednesday at De La Salle, and North Coast Section Open Division champion Campo into a one-sided affair.
“We talked about it all week,” said Campo coach Steven Dyer, whose team hadn’t played since beating De La Salle 51-50 in the NCS final on Feb. 25. “We were very happy that we ended up winning NCS. But we definitely didn’t feel like we played our best in the Northgate game or the De La Salle game, especially in the first half of both of those games.”
Campo pulled away in the second half to beat Northgate in the NCS semifinals and then barely survived in the championship game.
“I pride myself on being a defensive coach,” Dyer added. “I just wasn’t happy with how we played defensively in those two games. Really happy with how the guys responded on the defensive end, especially in the first half today. Our help defensive got back to where it should be.”
Riordan (21-9) scored the first six points, but Campo led 16-12 and did not slow down.
The final sequence of the first half had the packed house roaring.
With Riordon denying Mahaney the ball in the halfcourt, Bennett wisely swung a pass to Shane O’Reilly, who made a move toward the basket and then fed Clay Naffziger in the corner for a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Campo (28-1) outscored Riordan 18-6 in the second quarter for a 34-18 halftime advantage.
“That was huge and it was just capped off by Clay with that corner three,” Mahaney said. “But really just a credit to all of our guys, to really stay composed. You go up 16 at the half and a lot of teams are hooting and hollering. We were ready and we stayed composed.”
The lead never got below double digits in the second half as the Cougars stretched their winning streak to 22 games, three off the school record the team set in December.
Campo has won 47 of 48 since February 2020.
Riordan had hoped to flip the script on Campo, which beat the San Francisco school soundly in December at the Gridley tournament.
Instead, the Crusaders fell to 0-3 against Campo during the Moraga school’s 47-1 stretch.
“Credit to them,” Riordan coach Joe Curtin said. “They came out and played well, especially offensively, and their defense is tremendous, as well know.”
Riordan point guard Quinton Bundage had a medical issue Friday and did not play. The sophomore’s absence affected the team, particularly in the second quarter, Curtin said.
King-Njhsanni Wilhite led Riordan with 13 points, well below the 35 that he had against De La Salle on Wednesday.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Curtin said. “They fought until the end.”