Apollos beat Crusaders for Metro crown with rugged fourth

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior post Tyler Gutierrez scored 12 points for the Apollos who snapped Jesuits five-year run of Metro Championships on Wednesday.

Crunch time brought out the mettle —make that Metro League championship mettle— in Sunset, when they needed it most, against a team some said the Apollos would never beat because they weren't tough enough.

Coupling rugged strength on the boards with a display of dynamic defense, the Apollos stiffened and stifled long-time nemesis Jesuit in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's de facto Metro championship contest, curbing the Crusaders to just two points in the final five minutes and change.

Additionally, this supposedly soft Sunset squad stood tall in the face of pressure and adversity offensively, going on a 9-0 run on the wings of its defense in the final four minutes to seize a 49-41 lead and eventually a 53-42 win.

In the fourth, Sunset's collective will and utter emotion— fueled by a frenzied, purple-and-white clad student section that filled the stands—lifted the Apollos to new heights. And, with its emotional triumphant, Sunset convincingly wrapped up Metro for the first time since 2008, snapping Jesuit's five-year reign at the top of what's widely considered the best league in the state.

“We knew the tougher team was going to win,” said Sunset senior point guard Glenn Tanguy. “Sunset has sort of a reputation for not being as tough as we actually are. We just wanted to prove that to everybody. That's how we came out in the fourth.”

“It boiled down to that one quarter, and we just knew we couldn't let slip away,” said senior small forward Jeff Bieber. “We let the last game against them slip (a 52-49 loss). Today we weren't going to let it get away, especially with everybody here supporting us. It was a total team win, a total school win. I love it.”

“It was electric,” added Sunset senior guard Mikey Fey. “That's what we live for. It's what we practice, play and train hard for. That's what it's all about.”

Tied 38-38 going into the fourth with a Jesuit team that's legendary for its resiliency and gristly execution in the clutch, Sunset knew its manhood would be throughly tested. Jesuit junior guard Ryan Bay powered home a righty lay-in to give Jesuit a 41-40 early lead. But, Sunset senior guard Tyler Harris rebounded his own miss and finished at the rim with a righty reverse to reclaim a 42-41 lead.

After forcing a challenged Jesuit miss, Bieber grabbed the board off the glass, bolted down the left wing into the key, drew a foul on the Crusaders and floated a lefty offering off the window. Bieber's three-point play the hard way handed Sunset a 46-41 lead with 3:40 to go.

“We just tried to play hard, play smart and play together,” said Bieber. “Jesuit's a great team, but we knew we were better. We knew if we did those three things, we'd get it done. We weren't nervous going into the fourth. We knew we'd do our jobs and get the win.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior forward Jeff Bieber led the Apollos with 15 points in the Apollos Metro League championship clinching win over Jesuit on Friday.

Jesuit's physical play seemed to bring out the best, brooding side of Sunset. The Apollos matched the Crusaders' physicality with intestinal fortitude and fanatical trench warfare on defense.

“Sunset's a phenomenal team, no doubt,” said Bay. “They had a great defense and we made some costly turnovers. It was back-and-forth the whole game and it came down to who made championship possessions. We didn't capitalize on them and they did so, congrats to them.”

“They made some big plays and we didn't,” added Jesuit senior guard Jack Bell. “They made some steals, we didn't take care of the ball. Those are things we're going to touch up. But, best believe we're going to be back. It's not the last you're going to hear about Jesuit.”

Harris' quicksilver hands came up with another steal on the ensuing possession—the Apollos' third forced turnover of the quarter. Then, Fey danced on Jesuit's Dan Nelson with a tricky inside-out right-handed dribble, and finished over the Crusaders' helpside defense to extend the advantage to 48-41.

“We were jumping passing lanes, getting up into them,” said Fey. “We started trapping more, pressuring them and got easy buckets off that. It definitely stretched the game.”

Deploying a half-court trap on Jesuit, Fey and the Sunset defense forced a foul-up on the very next possession, which allowed the 5-foot-10 guard to collect the loose ball in the open floor and sky to the cup for the uncontested two, forcing Jesuit to call time all the while sending the Apollo student section into hysteria.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior guard Mikey Fey came up with two huge hoops in the fourth quarter to help the Apollos upend Jesuit on Wednesday to win the Metro League title.

“This was about as great of atmosphere as I've ever played in,” said Bell. “Unfortunately we couldn't get the win, but it's going to be a great learning experience for our team. We just have to stay calm down the stretch. The crowd got rowdy, we got nervous and just didn't take care of the ball or make smart plays. Next time we face a situation like that, I promise we'll be ready.”

Tanguy's steal and baseball outlet pass ahead to Bieber led to another contested two. Then, Bieber hit two free throws and Tanguy made of one two, as the Crusaders struggled to muster any sort of sustainable offense. Jesuit's shots—after dropping with regularity in the first quarter when the Crusaders led 21-15—went begging in the fourth when Sunset ratcheted up the intensity and physical force.

“We knew they were going to come in hard from the start and in the beginning we weren't really ready for that,” noted Tanguy. “But, in the third and fourth quarter we were able to turn the tide and do the same thing to them. We did a great job on the boards, and we just outhustled them to end up on top.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior guard Dan Nelson scored 10 points for the Crusaders who saw their five-year Metro reign end against Sunset on Wednesday.

Tanguy (11 points, seven in the first quarter) and Fey (six points, five rebounds) sustained their impressive late-season stretch of play. Bieber led Apollos with 15 points and Gutierrez added 12. And Sunset got invaluable chip-ins from the likes of Zach Niebergall who swished a three from the right wing just before halftime to cut a 10-point deficit to 33-26.

“It was going to be everybody,” said Bieber. “It had to be a total team effort to take down the five-time champs. They've had a good run, but it feels good to end it.”

Jesuit led 33-26 at halftime as the Crusaders came out firing, hitting four threes and getting a trio of buckets in the paint. The offense moved and flowed without hesitation. Jesuit's backcourt of Dan Nelson and Reid Bucy continued to impress, making plays off the bounce with calculated drives to the hole. Bay's jumper was on too, burying a couple of three balls. Henry Mondeaux exploited Sunset's sagging defense by motoring to the hole for a duo of lay-ups. Nelson and Bucy led the Crusaders with 10 points apiece.

Yet, Bieber and Sunset senior post Tyler Gutierrez began to enforce their resolve on the Crusaders in the third, scoring six points apiece on an array of aggressive drives to the bucket and acrobatic finishes in the lane. That seven-point deficit was quickly shaved because of the senior duo as Gutierrez gave the Apollos a 38-36 lead with a bullying drive for two.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior power forward Henry Mondeaux rises to the rim against Sunsets Tyler Gutierrez. Mondeaux had eight points and two dimes for the Crusaders.

“The biggest thing is we have to turn this into a positive,” said Bay. “Playoffs are coming up, so we have to put this behind us, learn from our mistakes and just move on. It was a good matchup, a good game. But, we're definitely going to learn from this and get back at it.”

Both Jesuit and Sunset will host a first round playoff game on Wednesday, and each squad vowed to not let the Metro's regular season finale affect them one way or the other. The second season, as it's been called, is about to begin. Both teams are set on going to the Moda Center for the 6A tourney and making a good amount of noise when they arrive.

“In the end we didn't make the plays to win, but the season's not over,” said Bell. “We have two weeks left to be state champs and that's our ultimate goal. We're staying focused. We'll let this sink it, we won't flush it. We're going to come back to practice the next couple days and hit it hard. It's one-and-done from here on, so we'll be ready.”

“I hope we can play them again,” said Bay. “They're coached really well. They have great players. I'd love to play them again. If we make shots and capitalize on turnovers...that could be a really fun game.”

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