Sacred Heart Prep's Corbin Koch, Connor Moses and Mason Randall combined for 37 points to lead the Gators to their first- ever Central Coast Section Open Division victory, 51-46 over Riordan at Santa Clara High School on Friday night.
The No. 4 seeded Gators improved to 23-2 overall while fifth-seeded Riordan dropped to 15-10 and into the consolation bracket.
Sacred Heart will take a 16-game win streak into the semifinals of the CCS playoffs and will face top-seeded St. Francis (21-4), a 57-34 winner over No. 8 Fremont. The Gators and Lancers will meet Tuesday at Independence High in San Jose at 7:30 p.m.
"What I take so much pride in with them is that they really don't think about who's next or what the next game is, they always think about how can we get better and how can we improve," said Sacred Heart head coach Tony Martinelli. "If you have that mindset, it's all about how you practice and what you do. We know there is going to be challenges, every game is going to get tougher, I think they welcome that challenge."
With 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Koch got double-teamed, found Moses in the corner, and the junior nailed a 3-pointer to put his team up by eight points and seal the win.
"Mitch (Martella) had the ball, threw it to Corbin, he was double-teamed and I was wide-open in the corner and had a great look," said Moses.
The Gators got their 3-point shooting going in the first quarter, drilling three and giving themselves the 12-11 edge ending the quarter.
SHP junior Andrew Daschbach put his team up by two when he knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game from the top of the key. On Sacred Heart's next possession, Daschbach faked a shot, drove in and layed it up, putting the Gators up 21-17.
With three seconds left, Riordan's Eddie Stansberry drove in and scored on a layup tying the game at 21-21 going into halftime. Stansberry had a solid game and finished with 16 points and 10 boards.
Sacred Heart took its biggest lead of the game in the third quarter when Koch spotted up for a 3-pointer and sank it putting the Gators up 35-27. The Gators' defense was stellar in the third quarter and held the Crusaders to only eight points.
"The second effort from our guys when they got shots up, our guys just kept fighting," said Martinelli. "That's what I'm most proud of in these guys, they never feel like their out of the game, they never quit."
In the fourth quarter with just under three minutes left, Mason Randall drained a clutch 3-pointer from the corner putting Sacred Heart up 48-39 and giving the Gators the momentum. Sacred Heart posted eight 3-pointers overall and now has 239 in 25 games.
"Good shooters are going to keep shooting it," said Martinelli. "That's what we always instill in these guys is that we never pull them for bad shots. You're going to take a few bad shots in games, you just want to limit them."
The Crusaders' Max Randall converted a free-throw to put his team down by five, but Riordan couldn't score again and the Gators held on for the triumph.
"I think we're confident going into the next round," said Koch, who finished with 11 points and six rebounds. "Our defense, shooting and offense will carry us through. We may not be the biggest team, but we're one of the smarter ones."
Second-seeded Pinewood opened its quest for a possible title in the CCS Open Division playoffs with a big 71-43 romp over No. 7 Valley Christian (17-8) on Friday night at Christopher School in Gilroy.
Senior Marissa Hing and freshman Stella Kailahi each scored 14 points for the Panthers (23-2), who stretched their winning streak to 17 games. Pinewood led 7-0 after one quarter and 27-8 at halftime.
The Panthers next will play No. 4 seed Eastside Prep (21-4) in Tuesday's semifinals at Milpitas High at 7:30 p.m. The West Bay Athletic League (Foothill Division) rivals have met twice during the league season, with Pinewood winning both games.
In the first game at Christopher School, Eastside Prep registered arguably its most significant victory in program history by upsetting No. 3 Mitty, 56-53, in another Open Division opener.
Brije Byers led Eastside with 16 points, and fellow senior Destiny Graham added 13, along with 20 rebounds. The No. 4-seeded Panthers (21-4), who have just six players on their roster, played the fourth quarter with just five after freshman Kayla Tahaafe fouled out.
The victory for Eastside Prep avenged a 45-37 loss to Mitty in the Eastside Prep Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in December.
At Oak Grove High, Palo Alto's 12-game win streak came to an end in a 63-33 loss to top-seeded St. Ignatius in an Open Division first-round game. The Vikings (22-3) fell behind by 15-8 after one period and trailed at halftime, 29-17. Coco Lovely paced the Vikings, who made just two 3-pointers in the game, with nine points.
Palo Alto drops into the consolation round and will visit No. 4 Scotts Valley (23-4) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Falcons fell to No. 5 Sacred Heart Cathedral, 50-42.