Priory senior Andy Isokpehi stole the ball at midcourt, flew down the lane and dunked the ball as the capacity crowd cheered wildly. A few minutes later, Isokpehi was surrounded by students who rushed the court to celebrate a scene they'd never witnessed before.
Hosting a NorCals game for the first time, No. 5 Priory put on a show for the hometown fans, beating No. 12 Mariposa County, 66-55, in a Division V first-round game Wednesday night.
"Our whole Benedictine values is hospitality," Panthers coach David Moseley said. "So we wanted to welcome them in with some hospitality, but we wanted to make sure we let them out with a loss."
Junior Scott Harris scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half for the Panthers (18-9), who will visit No. 4 Brookside Christian (24-4) Saturday at 6 p.m.
Priory was coming off its first-ever Central Coast Section Division V title this past Saturday, which gave it the opportunity to host Mariposa (24-7).
The game was close throughout -- Isokpehi's dunk at the end was the only time either team led by double-digits -- but Moseley said the crowd made the difference.
"It's an extremely small school, but when you're winning, the alumni come back, the parents come back, everybody comes out and fills the gym, and it was a great atmosphere," Moseley said.
Priory trailed 23-16 midway through the second quarter when the 6-6 Isokpehi blocked a layup on one end and hit a 3-pointer on the other end to start a Panthers' run. One possession later, Isokpehi found Nicholas Arslaner for a corner trey to give Priory the lead.
Another block by Isokpehi keyed an 8-0 run by the Panthers to end the half. Harris created space with a crossover and hit a 3, and then Chris Perez made a long-range shot in the final seconds as Priory went into the break up 34-27.
Mariposa fought back and took its only lead of the second half at 42-41 late in the third quarter, but once again Priory closed a quarter strong, scoring on four straight possessions to go up 49-41.
The Grizzlies cut it to four in the fourth quarter, but a 3-pointer with 3:17 remaining by Arslaner -- who was sick enough that sophomore Zach Weiss started in his place -- was the beginning of a game-ending 9-2 run that sealed the game.
While Mariposa went 12-0 in the Southern League, Priory went 6-8 in the West Bay Athletic League. But Moseley said that league games against D-4 schools like Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep are paying dividends for the Panthers now -- much to the delight of their boisterous fans.
"We were programming ourselves throughout the season to get here," Moseley said. "We play an extremely tough league schedule. You're going to get beat up by bigger schools. And then it hits the postseason, that's when we want to make some noise. Now you can see we're really conditioned and peaking at the right time."
Also advancing Wednesday night was Sacred Heart Prep, which raced to an 89-71 first-round win in the Division IV playoffs in Atherton.
Senior Corbin Koch tossed in a career-high 35 points for the No. 3-seeded Gators (24-4), who will host St. Mary's of Berkeley (19-11) on Saturday in a quarterfinal at 6 p.m.
Koch, the Most Valuable Player in the WBAL this season, continued his postseason offensive tear, which included 28 points in a CCS Open Division semifinal loss to St. Francis and 29 points in a loss to Mitty for third place. Juniors Mason Randall (18 points) and Connor Moses (13) added to the offensive output.
SHP coach Tony Martinelli, however, wasn't thrilled with his team's defensive effort. After pulling away to a 47-32 halftime lead, the Gators outscored the No. 14-seeded Mavericks (16-14) by only three points. Bret Lynch tallied 31 points to lead the visitors.