CCS basketball playoffs: Gunderson stuns top seed Sacred Heart Cathedral

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Bay Area News Group Gunderson center Christian Futch, shown in a file photo, had 25 points and 13 rebounds in a win Saturday night over Sacred Heart Cathedral.

In the same round a year ago, against an opponent from the West Catholic Athletic League, Gunderson got smoked.

Saturday, Gunderson did the dominating.

The Grizzlies advanced to the Central Coast Section Division III semifinals with a stunning 77-58 victory over top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral at St. Ignatius High in San Francisco.

SHC had a sub.-500 record and finished near the bottom of the WCAL standings. But it had wins this season over Archbishop Mitty, Serra and Fremont of Oakland, plus a tradition-rich pedigree.

None of that mattered in the second quarter Saturday as Gunderson (15-11) outscored the Fightin’ Irish 25-6 to turn a two-point lead after eight minutes into a 42-21 halftime advantage.

SHC had no answer for 6-foot-7 senior center Christian Futch, who had 25 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

It also couldn’t contain senior guard Mrad Abrha, who had 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, four assists and three steals.

“Mrad played amazing,” Futch said. “He really kept us on our toes, took the biggest role with taking the ball up court while they had a man on him the whole way. He protected the ball so well.”

Devon Snelgrove, a senior transfer from Valley Christian, finished with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds and three assists — a performance Futch described as the “X factor.”

The victory came one year after Archbishop Riordan blasted Gunderson 78-54 in the quarterfinals and on a night when coach Mike Allen did not go to his bench.

“What needs to be noted is we played with five guys against a West Catholic team, five guys the whole game,” Allen said. “That says a lot about our conditioning. That says a lot about the work that the guys put in.

“We’re really young on the back half. For us to do that with five guys is absolutely amazing. But it wasn’t just those five guys. Every player on the team, they played their part. They did their role. They wanted it just like if they were on the court.”

Despite last season’s shortcomings, Gunderson arrived in San Francisco confident that this game would be different than the quarterfinal against Riordan.

“My thoughts going into tonight was it was going to be a tough game; it was going to be a dogfight,” Futch said. “But if all of us played together as a team, I knew we would win. We all knew that people were going to think we were the underdog, but we knew that this wasn’t going to be an upset for us personally because we knew that we were the better team coming in.”

The Grizzlies will play Saratoga, a 62-61 overtime winner over No. 4 seed Aptos, in the semifinals Wednesday at S.I.

It’s been quite a turnaround for Gunderson, which opened this season with seven losses in its first 10 games as Snelgrove waited to be cleared after transferring and the Grizzlies adjusted after Abrha’s backcourt mate, Isaiah Foster, transferred to Oak Grove.

“We’ve just finally started to come together as a team,” Futch said. “Everyone, all the way from our bench up to our starters, are all playing together — all 12 of us. That’s the prime factor why we have been playing so well the second half of the season.”

Check back later for updates.

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