WATSONVILLE—Watsonville High junior Brody Legions was locked in down the stretch during Friday night’s league contest against St. Francis, making sure not to let a defender slip past him for the go-ahead score.
The Sharks still had plenty of chances to take the lead, or at least tie the score, but instead missed their final nine shots in the final 1:34 of the game, including a 3-pointer by sophomore Nash Horton that bounced off the rim right as the final buzzer went off.
“My heart was racing the whole time,” Legions said. “I just knew we had to keep them off the boards and no [3-pointers].”
The ‘Catz bench stormed center court to celebrate with their teammates who had just put on a great defensive effort en route to a 48-45 win over their cross-town rival in front of a raucous crowd inside the Shark Tank.
Legions finished with 16 points—most of them in the paint—to help Watsonville remain unbeaten in Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division play with an unblemished 5-0 record and atop of the division standings.
“I knew it was going to be a tough one,” he said. “Coach told me to go down low, stay there and that’s what I did.”
Watsonville coach Marcus Northcutt leaned on Legions to take advantage under the basket using his 6-foot-2, 185-pound body to push the ball into the hoop.
“[Legions] was the man inside, it saved us because TJ [Tajin Olivas] was off a little bit today, Karlos [Corpus] didn’t hit too many shots and Brody cleaned up everything for us,” Northcutt said.
Northcutt mentioned they’ll always try to get Legions the ball early and often to create a good shot or get opponents to commit the early foul, which worked for them Monday night.
However, the ‘Catz skipper said they deterred from the game plan a bit, which forced Northcutt to call a timeout to remind the players of the big guy under the hoop.
“Towards the end right there we did make a conscious effort to get it inside,” Northcutt said.
St. Francis coach Duncan Edwards said they fought with every last ounce of energy but the shots just weren’t dropping in for them.
“We were there, there was just nothing going in,” he said.
It was the Sharks who jumped out to a quick start and held on to a 12-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams went on a scoring drought and Northcutt wanted to call a timeout that the referees did not see. Instead, it was senior Karlos Corpus who nailed a 3-pointer with little more than four minutes left in the first half.
St. Francis responded when junior guard Joseph Rose made a 3-pointer that helped launch a 4-2 run to end the second frame, pulling to within a point of Watsonville at 25-20.
Coming out of the halftime break, the ‘Catz took the first swing with a big swipe of the paw. They continued to dominate inside the paint led by Legions and went ahead, 36-26, in the third period.
Northcutt felt like they took control of the game at that point until the Sharks began to slowly crawl back.
“They played better defense, got breakaway layups,” he said. “They just got back into it and then it became a brawl at the end.”
Christian Magaña stopped the bleeding for St. Francis with a layup bucket, which then ignited a 6-2 run at the start of the fourth.
“[Watsonville] didn’t get back,” Edwards said. “We had a lot of open floor stuff. Both Sam [Braun] and Joseph [Rose] were running the floor real well and they didn’t have anybody back.”
Moments later, junior Sam Braun made a huge three point bucket and Horton followed up with a free throw that gave the Sharks their first lead, 45-42, since the second quarter.
Horton had 10 points and Rose finished with a team-best 15 points for St. Francis.
“Sam [Braun] kept taking off, he got a bunch of layups and then [Horton] got a bunch of layups,” Northcutt said. “That’s how they took away our 10-point lead.”
Watsonville guard Tajin Olivas had been shut down for most of the evening until he came through with a clutch shot from beyond the arc that tied the score at 45-all. He finished with 10 points including eight in the second half.
On their ensuing possession, the ‘Catz took the lead for good when Legions drove to the bucket and was fouled by the Sharks’ defense.
He drained one of two free throw attempts and Corpus capped off the scoring with a pair of shots from the charity line. Corpus finished with 11 points.
“We love games like this, our team is built for this,” he said. “We took a nice early lead but then we let them get back in the game and that was our defense. We take full responsibility for that and they have a really good team.”
Despite the minor meltdown, the ‘Catz’s defense managed to hold Braun—who came in with an average of 26 points per game—to 10 points and didn’t allow him to make a 3-point shot on Monday night.
“We know he likes to get the ball in stride and catch and shoot,” Corpus said. “We just denied everything we could and we did it.”
It’s Corpus’ final season playing in a cross-town rivalry against a formidable opponent and getting the victory was a confidence booster for them moving forward.
“It’s always fun playing against them,” he said.
Northcutt said the victory is just a bit extra special being it was against the local rival. Both teams know each other from playing Amateur Athletic Union Basketball and Little League Baseball.
“A lot of times there’s an added piece to this, a little bragging rights for the local 95076,” Northcutt said.
Watsonville will continue the gauntlet with three games at home remaining this week starting with King City (6-8, 1-4) on Wednesday at 7pm.
The ‘Catz will continue on Thursday with a make-up game against Rancho San Juan, followed by a meeting with North Salinas (5-9, 3-2) on Friday. Both games are also slated for a 7pm start.
“They’re all hard games, so hopefully we’ll have some fans there in our crowd,” Corpus said. “We just need to go through the gauntlet and it’s going to be hard having no practice. We’ll have one more practice before those three games and get it all figured out.”