The Gunn basketball team went into Friday night’s semifinal matchup with host James Lick at the James Lick Invitational Tournament as a prohibitive favorite. The Titans had an overwhelming advantage in the vital categories of size, skill, and depth.
That’s why the first half was largely an exercise in frustration for the visitors. Gunn may have had all the tangibles, but James Lick played like it wanted it more.
Jeffrey Lee-Heidenreich and Demario Shepard, Gunn’s two top scorers, both picked up technical fouls in the second quarter and Gunn coach Brandynn Williams had each ride the pine the remainder of a half that concluded with the Titans clinging to a 38-35 lead.
Gunn needed a change of pace and got one by applying a full-court press that completely altered the course of the game.
Forcing turnover after turnover, Gunn outscored Lick 28-8 in the third quarter and went on to an 85-61 victory.
Gunn will play Wilcox for the tournament championship Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Wilcox defeated Harker, 67-56, in Friday’s other semifinal.
The press Gunn employed in the second half worked to perfection.
“I knew we had to change the tempo, get it going up and down,’’ Williams said. “Our guys had some mental lapses in the first half, getting two technicals. I told them they had to adjust to the way the refs were calling the game. It’s a fine line playing with an edge and going over the edge.’’
Lee-Heidenreich and Shepard scored 20 points apiece. David Clarke scored 14. Ten of Shepard’s 20 came during that third-quarter flurry.
So, Gunn will play Wilcox in the final, a team the Titans have plenty of history with as both are members of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division. As good as the press worked Friday, don’t expect Gunn to use it much in the final against Wilcox.
“Wilcox is hard to press,’’ Williams said. “They’re a super athletic team.’’
Wilcox more often than not presses the entire game, so handling the press and playing with composure will be a key for Gunn.