NCS basketball playoffs: Pittsburg’s run continues, advances to D-I semifinal – “Magical, maybe”

NCS basketball playoffs: Pittsburg’s run continues, advances to D-I semifinal – “Magical, maybe”

PITTSBURG – Pittsburg’s football team making the semifinals of the North Coast Section’s Division I playoffs is not surprising. It has succeeded in the sport for decades and is coming off back-to-back section championships.

But Pittsburg’s boys basketball team, which won a combined 14 games over its previous three seasons, being one win away from a guaranteed spot in NorCal after it beat James Logan 87-72 in the Division I quarterfinals on Friday night? 

Well, that’s something so unexpected, even Pittsburg coach Rich Gonzales struggled to describe his squad’s incredible run. Pittsburg upset No. 5 seed Berkeley 47-44 on Tuesday.

“Right now, we’re on that ride,” Gonzales said. “We’ve been coming through the last few games. Magical, maybe. Or sometimes, its about our heart. The team just wants it.”

The Pirates have not won a section championship in basketball since at least 1975, when the section’s online records start. But they had hoops success in the previous decades, and football coach Charlie Ramirez is happy to see the the school’s other sport thriving. 

“Rich Gonzalez has really turned things around,” Ramirez told the Bay Area News Group via text. “Pitt has a great basketball tradition, so it’s great to see this resurrection.”

Junior guard Paulance Quarles, who scored 14 points against James Logan, is not taking the Pittsburg’s playoff success for granted. 

“It’s a blessing, and we’re lucky to make it this far,” Quarles said. “But we have a great team, and we just have to worry about who is in front of us.”

Contrary to what the final score indicated, it was hardly an easy win for the No. 12 seeded Pirates.  

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Pittsburg’s 21-point first quarter lead was a distant memory. Pittsburg was only up 60-57 after James Logan outscored Pittsburg 47-29 in the middle two quarters.

“Yeah, we didn’t get the win, but we played hard,” James Logan coach Chris Bermudez said. “We came up a little short, but I’m really proud that they showed who they were really were when things went south.”

James Logan’s Julius Wilson scored 22 and Anthony Delgiudice scored 14 to lead the rally. Meanwhile, Pittsburg’s Jeremiah Collins led all scorers with 26 points, and his steady play down the stretch kept the game within a one- or two-possession game going into the final minutes.

With 3:16 left in the game,  Collins converted a tough and-1 layup on one end, and Wilson answered with a layup of his own. 

Pittsburg led 74-70, and neither team could seem to get a stop. 

But buoyed by a roaring home crowd and supreme confidence, the Pirates went on a 13-2 run to close out the game. 

Collins made a free throw, Curtis Banks put in a close shot, and Jason Robertson slipped through the James Logan defense for an open court and-one layup to extend the lead to 81-70. 

“We’ve been in these type of situations before, so we just keep our composure and fight through it,” Banks said. “Even if the other team is on a run, we just stay composed. Once we get one of our own, we know they can’t stop it.”

Bermudez later rued the team’s slow start, where the team looked nothing like the one that had upset Monte Vista on the road a few days prior. By the 4:20 mark of the first quarter, the Pirates led James Logan 17-2. 

Even when James Logan (17-11) went on its own run to cut Pittsburg’s lead to 43-38 at halftime, the players remained calm, and went on to answer every Logan burst with one of their own. 

“We had a run, and they had a run, and we said we’re gonna come back and have our run too,” Gonzales said.

Pittsburg (17-11) will travel to Clayton Valley Charter on Tuesday, which beat San Leandro 62-52 in its quarterfinal. CVC beat Pittsburg 64-49 earlier in the season, but after its last two wins, the Pirates are confident they can compete with the division’s No. 1 seed. 

“I’m ready,” Pittsburg coach Rich Gonzales said. “If we can beat these guys, and we can beat Berkeley, then we can beat Clayton.”

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