Boys Basketball: The Bishop’s School overcomes slow start, stuffs La Jolla High School, 68-54


The Bishop’s School Knights


La Jolla High School Vikings


By Ed Piper

The ongoing rivalry between The Bishop’s School and La Jolla High (founded in 1909 and 1922, respectively), clashed again in boys basketball Jan. 21.

“I’m nervous. I’m normally nervous before a game, but this (is different),” remarked a preoccupied Matt Niehues, Bishop’s coach.

Said Knight senior Jake Dempsey, “People go pretty crazy over it. The stands are packed and it’s loud!”

For Sahil Sheth, a sophomore starter for Bishop’s, it’s pretty personal. He played in the Hoopers youth program that feeds the LJHS program, so he knows the level of competition the Vikings would bring.

“I was supposed to come to this school, so I know exactly what the rivalry is. These are my friends that I’ll be playing against, so I know exactly what is on the stake tonight,” Sheth said.

What does the rivalry mean? ”It means everything. It means everything,” he said.

Before the game, Vikings guard Ladd Castellano took a breath from warm-ups to comment, “I’m just really looking forward to the rivalry. I like getting wins against Bishop’s. We have to come out strong. We can’t think that we can just waltz over them like nothing.”

La Jolla did come out strong, which it hasn’t always done this season. With a good, but not huge, crowd roaring on every basket, the Vikings jumped out to a 14-6 lead on baskets by Castellano and freshman Reed Farley. Nic Skala had a steal. Farley, a guard, blocked one shot, and then wrapped up the ball on another block to force a jump ball, which electrified home fans.

Knight Dempsey said after the game, “we came out kind of shaky” at the outset. Then Bishop’s settled in, scoring 11 straight points. Guard Eric Yu had a beautiful steal and bucket during the run. Freshman Justin Woodley, effective all year, had two baskets, one off an assist by Sheth. La Jolla led 14-10 at the end of the first quarter, 27-23 at the end of the first half.

As Sheth pointed out before the game, neither the Knights nor the Vikings have much height, leading to a battle of the guards, with the victory going to the swift.

In the heat of the fray in the third and fourth quarters, when the game was decided, there were times when players on the two teams madly groped, grappled, lunged and did every other kind of reach for the ball as it caromed around, bodies flying. The screaming crowd added to the confusion with a piercing soundtrack of volume, distorting as if the treble control was set too high.

Bishop’s (10-5 overall, 1-2 in the Coastal League) scored 11 unanswered points a second time, and led 38-31 late in the third quarter. The lead hit 10 points on Dempsey’s field goal. La Jolla closed to within three at 48-45. But with 5:23 left in the contest, the 6-2 Sheth hit a set shot from three-point range. Moments later, Knight guard Matt Lizanich punched in his own three, putting the Knights up by eight. They never looked back. “We just needed to push the ball like we do and run the floor and execute our plays. I think we did that in the second half,” Dempsey said.

Lizanich led all scorers with 20 points for Bishop’s. Castellano had 19 for the Vikings.

La Jolla’s chronic struggle since three wins in the Montgomery tournament in December has been consistency. Coach Paul Baranowski said, “We’re still trying to find ourselves,” playing well in losing narrowly to Mission Bay, 54-50, only four nights before the Bishop’s game, after crumbling before mighty St. Augustine in a debacle Jan. 14.

The Vikings (1-4 in the Western League, 9-10 overall) redeemed part of their season three nights after the Bishop’s loss by upsetting Cathedral Catholic on its home court, 65-57, Jan. 24. Skala put in a stellar performance, scoring 23 points, eight of those in the fourth quarter.


Bishop’s (68) — Lizanich 20, Yu 15, Woodley 14, Dempsey 11, Sheth 8. La Jolla High (54) — Castellano 19, Farley 15, Skala 10, Porter 7, Polger 2, Sepulveda-Sanders 1, Kerns 0, Duffy 0.