APTOS— All the cards were on the table for Aptos High heading into Tuesday night’s win or go home situation in the Central Coast Section playoffs.
It was also one final chance for the five Mariners seniors including Trevor Brady to play on their home court, understanding their entire basketball careers were built up to this moment.
Brady finished with 13 points and No. 3 seed Aptos used its superior size along with versatile skill set en route to a 57-50 win over No. 6 South San Francisco that felt all too close for comfort.
“We were longer and we took advantage, we’re not longer often,” Mariners coach Brian Bowyer said. “We rebounded well and we needed to do everything well.”
After losing their previous game against Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League rival Santa Cruz High, the Mariners prepared for a completely different matchup.
A matchup against a significantly smaller but equally quick Warriors squad.
The Mariners came out swinging and yet they were caught off guard by the persistence of SSF (15-10, 6-6), which spearheaded its fastbreak transitions followed by three-point shooting ability.
Aptos was still more physically imposing throughout the game and time after time asserted itself in the paint or getting to the free throw line trying–where it scored many of its points.
“Offensive rebounds and free throws were probably our biggest thing,” said SSF coach Isaiah Igafo. “That’s probably what separated us, that we gave up a lot of second chance points.”
According to MaxPreps, Aptos came into the game ranked No. 390 in California and No. 33 in the CCS, while SSF trailed at No. 493 in the state and No. 42 in the section.
It took well into the game for a full crowd to accumulate, and even so the intensity of the game didn’t quite match the previous battles against Santa Cruz–which competed in the Open Division.
On Tuesday, it was sophomore guard Isaiah Ackerman leading Aptos to victory with a team-best 15 points, shooting 90% (9-of-10) from the free throw line.
“It was driving and penetrating,” Ackerman said. “We weren’t making a lot of our 3-pointers but we were able to penetrate and get layups, get put-backs.”
Throughout the middle stretch of the game, Aptos seemed to be a half step ahead of SSF with a consistent lead of about five points. However, the Warriors stifled any prolonged momentum from the Mariners with multiple onslaughts of 3-pointers.
The Warriors at one point held a marginal lead midway through the game. They were led by Nolan Alimorong who had a game-high 17 points, while fellow teammate Steven Fernando knocked in four 3-point shots.
“We knew they could shoot,” Bowyer said. “It seemed like every time they got somewhat of an open look they were going to knock it down.”
The Warriors’ lineup consisted of eight seniors and will likely begin a rebuild phase going into next season.
The Mariners were relieved to have Brady on the floor after a scary fall in their game against Santa Cruz. He was given eight stitches and passed the concussion protocol before getting back on the court.
In a game that required their physical prowess, Lawrence Ingram’s 12-point performance was critical for the Mariners’ success.
This included the dagger 3-pointer that Bowyer yelled at him not to shoot, but instead wound up being Aptos’ lone bucket from beyond the arc.
“In the locker room he said, ‘Coach, I thought you said shoot,’” Bowyer said.
Aptos senior Harrison Bloom contributed 11 points, while fellow teammates Kevin Hamlyn, Jason Becker and Tosh Woods each had two points.
The Mariners managed to get their first postseason win behind them, but there is no time for them to be complacent.
Despite being the lower seed, Aptos (19-8) will host No. 2 Burlingame (20-4) on Thursday at 7pm.
The Mariners are hellbent to even the score heading into their meeting against the Panthers, who have eliminated Aptos from the CCS playoffs for the past two years.
“Burlingame is going to be a completely different type of game, they’re going to be longer and stronger,” Bowyer said.
With their season on the line, the Mariners better plan on bringing their A-game to “A-Town” come Thursday night.