Alemany basketball uses ‘predator’ mentality to defeat Santa Cruz for CIF state Division III title

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

SACRAMENTO — Alemany’s boys basketball team placed seventh in arguably the toughest league in Southern California. The Warriors were 11th in their final division rankings entering the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

Then their mentality changed. Their confidence soared. And they couldn’t be beat.

The Warriors rode their new perspective all the way to a state title Friday, defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 in a spirited Division III final at Golden 1 Center.

Before two dueling student sections, Alemany (25-15) won its 11th consecutive game to claim its second state championship. The Warriors also won Division III in 2012.

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Jared Mims #1 of Alemany drives to the basket against Ben Dotten #12 of Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo of Alemany slam dunks against Santa Cruz in the first half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo #4 of Alemany Fights for the rebound against Demarco Hunter #14 of Santa Cruz in the first half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Jared Mims #1 of Alemany shoots against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Jared Mims #1 of Alemany drives to the basket against Ben Dotten #12 of Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo #4 of Alemany shoots over Demarco Hunter #14 Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo #4 of Alemany goes to the floor against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo of Alemany slam dunks against Santa Cruz in the first half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Jared Mims #1 of Alemany shoots against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Logan Dorsey #2 of Alemany drives to the basket against Demarco Hunter #14 of Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Mike DuLaney of Alemany reacts against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Michael Lindsay #11 of Alemany Drives to the basket against Demeke Smith #2 of Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Samuel Mbingazo #33 of Alemany drives to the basket against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Logan Dorsey #2 of Alemany Shoots over a Demarco Hunter #14 of Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Mike DuLaney of Alemany reacts against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo #4 of Alemany drives to the basket against Demarco Hunter #14 Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo #4 of Alemany goes to the floor against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Samuel Mbingazo #33 of Alemany drives to the basket against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Michael Lindsay #11 of Alemany hangs on the rim after a slam dunk against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo #4 of Alemany Shoots against #12 of Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Michael Lindsay #11 of Alemany Drives to the basket against Demarco Hunter #14 of Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Alemany celebrates after defeating Santa Cruz 63-53 to win a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Bourgeois Tshilobo #4 of Alemany Shoots over Demarco Hunter #14 of Santa Cruz in the first half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Head coach Mike DuLaney looks on as Samuel Mbingazo #33 of Alemany prepares to shoots against Santa Cruz in the second half of a CIF State Division III boys basketball championship game the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento on Friday, March 8, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

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In a wild postgame celebration, Alemany’s players rushed coach Mike DuLaney at center court and jumped with the trophy while cheering.

The Warriors then credited their postseason run, in part, to playing in the Mission League, home to powerhouses such as Harvard-Westlake, Sierra Canyon and Notre Dame. Harvard-Westlake will attempt to win the Open Division title for the second year in a row Saturday night against Salesian College Prep.

“We played a crazy-hard league, so as soon as postseason hits our mentality changes,” said Alemany senior guard Michael Lindsay, who scored a game-high 25 points. “We feel like we’re the predators now. We’re just looking to win and we won 11 straight. It was amazing.”

DuLaney also credited the stiff competition of the Mission League, which produced section champions in Harvard-Westlake and Notre Dame.

“The Mission League preps you in so many different ways, emotionally, physically,” said DuLaney, whose team claimed the CIF-SS Division 3A title in triple overtime against Bosco Tech. “And for us, we competed this year in the Mission League. … We got hot at the right time.”

Alemany, which never trailed, excelled attacking the basket and playing strong defense against Santa Cruz (27-7).

The Warriors shot 47 percent from the floor in dominated points in the paint, 40-16.

Lindsay led slashing guards Jared Mims (14 points) and Paris Lassiter (six points) and forward Logan Dorsey (seven points) in driving to the basket to make tough layups in traffic.

Lindsay, who is headed to Idaho State to play football, had a dunk on a third-quarter fastbreak.

Alemany also received muscle from towering posts Bourgeois Tshilobo (five points) and Samuel Mbingazo (six points). Tshilobo had a thunderous dunk late in the first half.

The Warriors’ intentions to attack the basket were so clear, they didn’t attempt their first 3-pointer until 1:14 was left in the second quarter. Lindsay, the nephew of Hall of Fame basketball players Reggie and Cheryl Miller, sank the shot to contribute to a 30-20 lead at intermission.

“We have to win the paint points,” DuLaney said, “and I think we’ve done that pretty well the past 10 games.”

Alemany played multiple defenses to hold Santa Cruz to 38 percent shooting. The Northern California champion was stuck on 34 points with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Mims led the way with eight steals. The 6-foot-9 Mbingazo blocked three shots, including one late on a drive by high-flying sophomore Demarco Hunter (22 points).

“We started in a man. We had some success,” DuLaney said. “But then we switched to a zone. We’ve been running that, in and out, all year, and that was kind of our calling card.”

But for this season, Alemany will be remembered most for how it finished.

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