De La Salle High’s Amadi Udenyi found the touch in the nick of time Wednesday night to help push his team past a scrappy Castro Valley High bunch, 47-29, in the North Coast Section Division I semifinals.
The Spartans and Trojans were deadlocked at 23-23 late in the third quarter, and De La Salle clung to a tenuous three-point advantage to start the fourth.
Udenyi, who struggled to find his rhythm early in the game, recording only one basket before halftime, exploded for three three-pointers in the fourth. He scored 14 consecutive points to start the final period, pushing the Spartan advantage to 37-23.
The scoring run was enough to put Castro Valley to sleep.
“I knew if we lost, we would still go to NorCal, but I did not want to lose,” said Udenyi. “I want to go out with an NCS, NorCal and a state championship. I told my teammates give me the ball, we are not losing this game.”
The senior point guard was able to finally find creases in the suffocating Trojan defense by running off a number of solidly set back screens.
While Castro Valley misfired on the offensive end, shooting a combined 22 percent, the Spartans turned the ball over.
“Coach (Allocco) says in March you just have to get the win, regardless if it is ugly or sloppy,” added Udenyi.
De La Salle junior swingman Elliot Pitts ground his way to 13 points and 11 rebounds, most of his field goals coming on tough shots in the lane with contact.
“Castro Valley is a great team and we knew they were going to battle us,” said De La Salle coach Frank Allocco. “We did not take care of the ball. I told our guys at halftime, we are not doing anything that we do.“
Both teams alternated slumps, the most glaring being Castro Valley only scoring two points in the game’s first eight minutes. The Trojans were able to claw their way back into the contest and even claimed the lead twice (at 15-13 and 18-16) in the second and third quarters.
“We were rushing our shots, turning the ball over and making bad decisions. You cannot do that against a good team,” said Allocco. “In the fourth quarter we got rolling and hit a couple shots and the kids started playing with confidence. We were able to get away with it.”
The Spartan defense bottled up shifty guard Dawson Johnson, who Allocco called one of the best guards in the Bay Area, and limited him to only eight points. Johnson also added four steals and was key to the Castro Valley pressure defense.
Trojan forward Derrick Clayton scored on several tip-ins and led his team in scoring and rebounding with 11 points to go with seven boards.
De La Salle split the series with Castro Valley last season, losing in the North Coast Section finals match, 60-42, before knocking the Trojans out of the state tournament in the NorCal finals, 49-43.
De La Salle 47, Castro Valley 29
De La Salle
Individuals — (fg ftm-fta tp)
Clayton 4 3-3 11, Davis 0 1-2 1, Johnson 3 1-6 8, McFerren 2 0-0 4, Mitchell 0 0-1 0, McClain-Hall 0 2-2 2, Garcia 1 1-2 3. Totals 10 8-16 29.
De La Salle
Hill 1 0-0 2, Udenyi 5 2-3 16, O'Dea 1 0-0 3, Oronos 1 0-0 2, Will 0 1-2 1, Pitts 5 2-2 13, Sullivan 1 2-2 4, Gunder 0 2-5 2, White 0 4-6 4. Totals 14 13-20 47.
3-point goals: Castro Valley 1 (Johnson), De La Salle 6 (Udenyi 4, O'Dea, Pitts.).
Fouled out: None. Technicals: none.
Records: Castro Valley 22-7; De La Salle 26-2.
North Coast Section Semifinals, boys basketball, 2/29/12