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Dons steal last-second thriller from Buccaneers with late comeback

UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO – Top-seeded Cathedral Catholic spent most of Saturday afternoon trailing third-seeded Mission Bay in the Division III Finals, but in the end the Dons were able to steal a victory. Junior guard Brandon Michel scored the go-ahead layup with 1.9 seconds left to cap a rally and lift top-seeded Cathedral Catholic to a thrilling 65-64 victory at Jenny Craig Pavilion.

“There was so much pressure and so much on the line,” Michel said. “Everything that we’ve done this season showed in the last four minutes, and I’m glad we could come out on top.”

After a slow start, Cathedral Catholic (28-3) spent the first three quarters chasing Mission Bay. Cathedral Catholic junior forward Parker Holland hit a jumper at the third-quarter buzzer to put the Dons ahead 47-45 headed into the fourth quarter.

“They kept fighting, we kept fighting, and it was back and forth,” Michel said. “That’s why these two teams were in the championship.”

Mission Bay (18-8) quickly jumped in front at the start of the fourth quarter, and back-to-back baskets by senior forward James Cloud gave the Buccaneers a 60-54 lead with 2:26 remaining. In the face of a six-point deficit Cathedral Catholic turned up its trademark pressure to mount a comeback, and tied the game with six points in a 31-second span to set up a frantic finish.

“When the game comes down the stretch and we’re trailing we know that pressure has been our thing the whole time, and we were confident that we could put in the press and get those steals right away,” said Cathedral Catholic junior guard Michael Rosenburg.

After a handful of lead changes in the final minute, Mission Bay senior guard D.J. Mebratu made two free throws to put the Buccaneers ahead 65-64. Rosenburg took the ensuing inbounds pass and raced down the court before a pair of Mission Bay defenders picked him up at halfcourt.

“I got past the first guy and Brandon’s man came towards me, and I know he can make big plays,” Rosenburg said. “I had confidence in my teammate and it turned out well.”

Rosenburg fired a pass to a streaking Michel, who drove to the basket and put in the go-ahead layup while being fouled to put Cathedral Catholic up 65-64 with 1.9 seconds left. Michel intentionally missed the free throw, and 5-foot-10 junior rebounded his miss to run out the final seconds and clinch victory for the Dons.

“I was looking for the pass,” Michel said. “I knew there wasn’t that much time left, so I had to go up somehow. I saw the defender and tried to go around him to avoid an offensive foul, and it just went in. It was a tough shot.”

Michel led Cathedral Catholic with a game-high 22 points – including 16 points in the second half – and keyed the Dons’ late rally. Cathedral Catholic capped one of its best seasons in school history with a 10th section title – its first since 2000 – and now turns its focus to the state playoffs.

“Whenever you get the chance to do something with your season at the end, it’s always fun,” Rosenburg said. “We’re looking forward to state – it’s a new opportunity.”

Senior guard Jerald Albritton scored 21 points to lead a balanced Mission Bay attack that saw four players score in double figures. For the Buccaneers, the loss marks a second straight one-point defeat in the section finals.

Cathedral Catholic – 65 (10-20-17-18)

Michel 22, Prunty 12, Rosenburg 8, Williams 5, Reh 2 (starters) Federico 9, Holland 7

Mission Bay – 64 (18-14-13-19)

Albritton 21, Petties-Wilson 14, Mebratu 12, Cloud 14, Holler 3 (starters)

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Pictured: Cathedral Catholic celebrates its Division III championship

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