Unselfish play — it’s been the trademark of a Mission Oak High boys basketball team that’s headed to Selland Arena for the second time in three seasons.
The Hawks routinely look to make the extra pass, be it a back-door cut, a kick-out for an open 3-pointer or a pump-fake and dish under the basket.
And it was that kind of ball movement that propelled top-seeded Mission Oak to a 25-point lead midway through the third quarter before then weathering a furious comeback by No. 4 Roosevelt for a 65-58 victory in the semifinals of the Central Section Division II playoffs Wednesday night.
Mission Oak (29-1) will face second-seeded and defending champion Hanford, a 51-48 winner over No. 3 Ridgeview, for the title at 8 p.m. Friday. The Hawks in 2012, then in D-III, lost 62-60 Independence during the school’s only other appearance in a section basketball final.
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“This team has done a good job of not caring who scores,” Mission Oak coach Mark Siverly said. “They get excited for each other. They genuinely know if we play as a team, we’re hard to beat.”
Roosevelt, which lost to Fresno 62-61 in last season’s D-III final before being promoted under the section’s competitive equity system, found out just how difficult it is to defeat the Hawks.
Unafraid of going right at the Rough Riders’ 6-foot-8, Fresno State-bound Bryson Williams, Mission Oak jumped out to a 19-9 lead after the first quarter and stretched it to 39-19 at halftime.
The Hawks then opened the third quarter on a 12-7 run that pushed their lead to 51-26.
The high-scoring Brian King, who had been held to three points in the first half, caught fire for Roosevelt, starting with a buzzer-beating, three-quarter-length-of-the-court shot to close the third quarter.
King added 10 points during a 20-3 run that allowed the Rough Riders (24-5) to cut their deficit to one at 58-58 with 3:40 remaining.
“We came out kind of sluggish and didn’t shoot well early in the game,” Roosevelt coach Jamarr Chisom said. “But we never quit. ... These guys refused to do that.”
The Rough Riders missed four 3-point attempts down the stretch, while Mission Oak went 4 for 8 from the free-throw line, including three of Austin Molezzo’s team-leading 18 points, to hold on.
“We let them come back a little, but that’s the difference between this team and the past: We’re a lot more mature,” Molezzo said. “We knew we were going to win this game. We stuck together and we’re very resilient.”
Le’Andre Jefferson contributed 14 points and Will Shannon added 10 for the Hawks, whose only loss of the season came Dec. 11 against Sunnyside (76-70) at the Kings County Classic. Mission Oak rides a 25-game winning streak into the final.
“I was really happy with the way we played in the first half,” Siverly said. “We made those extra passes that have been characteristic of us all season.”
King scored 19 points, Williams had 14 before fouling out with 33 seconds to go and Jestin Jackson added 11 for Roosevelt.