On one of Bishop Alemany’s first possessions during its home playoff opener against the Central Grizzlies March 9, Alemany senior captain Shacquille Dawkins collided with a teammate and stayed on the ground, writhing in pain, while the home Warrior crowd held its collective breath. Fortunately for Alemany, that moment proved to be the last time the Warriors and their fans had to be nervous about anything.
A minute or so after the collision, Dawkins got back up on his feet and appeared to be fine. Shortly thereafter, so was Alemany’s offense. After a rocky start, the Warriors went on a scoring spree over the final three quarters to seal an 81-56 victory in the opening round of the Division I state playoffs.
Second quarter takeover
Though Alemany had the homecourt advantage, the first quarter had the feel of a Central home game, not only because the Grizzlies brought a sizable, very vocal crowd from Fresno with them, but also because Central’s performance early on gave the visiting crowd much to cheer about. Central pushed the tempo and put points on the board in a hurry. The Central charge was led by sophomore point guard Cashemin Williams, who scored nine of his 16 points in the first frame.
Meanwhile, Alemany sputtered in the early going, but didn’t lose any confidence as it geared up for the second quarter.
“[Head] coach [Tray Meeks of Alemany] told us, ‘They gave us their best shot,’” recalls Dawkins. “We just focused on coming out and playing our style of basketball: sharing the ball and pushing the tempo.”
Mission accomplished. Alemany poured in 27 second quarter points, thanks to many Warrior players, who were just as impressive on the defensive end, holding the Grizzlies to 10 points in the frame.
“We wanted to make sure we slowed them down in transition,” explains Meeks. “In the first quarter they were able to get easy fast break points. I think about half of their points were in transition. We wanted to bottle that up, keep Cash Williams out of the paint, and keep [Central junior forward JuJuan Johnson] from driving. I think once we did that, and picked up our defensive intensity, it helped.”
Did somebody say ‘McDonald?’
Alemany picked up right where it left in the second half, as the Warriors piled up another 30 points in the third quarter. Dawkins (17 points), junior guard Brandon Davis (16 points) and junior forward Earnie Sears (15 points), who also served as a stalwart under the basket on the defensive end for Alemany the entire night, continued to display the hot shooting touch. But no one was hotter than sophomore shooting guard D.J. McDonald, who scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the frame.
While the March 9 game demonstrated that Alemany’s core is stacked with individual talent, it also showcased that Alemany is a complete team, as 10 different Warriors contributed to the scoring.
“When we share the ball, it’s tough to play defense against us,” states Meeks. “We’re always saying, ‘Share the ball. Find the best shot for the team.’ And they did a great job of it tonight.”
Although Central succumbed to the overwhelming Alemany offensive onslaught, JuJuan Johnson didn’t go away quietly. Held without a field goal in the first half, Johnson came to life in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 points.
Alemany’s ensuing game versus Narbonne on March 12 was similar to the March 9 win against Central in that the Warrior offense fired on all cylinders.
Unfortunately for Alemany, the Gauchos had that one extra basket in them to seal their 72-70 victory.