De'Anthony Melton has left the building, and Encino Crespi fans will never forget him.
In a fitting finale for perhaps the best basketball player in school history, the 6-foot-4 senior contributed 24 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks and four assists to help the Celts (33-4) win the state Division I championship with a 68-53 victory over Berkeley on Thursday night at Sleep Train Arena.
"Hard to argue," Coach Russell White said of Melton's legacy. "He rewrote the record book and won two state titles."
Said Melton: "It's crazy to think it's over, but I ended it on a high note and I couldn't have asked for anything more."
He had plenty of help from 6-6 Mitch Mykhaylov, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Guard Brandon Williams added 16 points.
Crespi opened a 12-point halftime lead, then saw Berkeley go on an 11-1 run to start the third quarter and take the lead. But that only caused Melton to reassert himself and steady the Celts.
Melton is moving on to USC, and he said, "If it's anything like this, I love playing for the big prize."
Crespi won a Division IV state title last season, and combined with this Division I crown, White has his program rising behind a talented collection of guards.
There haven't been many more impressive individual performances than the one turned in by 6-foot-8 Kenny Wooten of Manteca. He scored 26 points, making 11 of 13 shots, had 18 rebounds and nine blocks in a 60-51 victory over Chino Hills Ayala.
"He's definitely one of the most athletic players I've played against," Ayala's John Edgar said of the Nevada-bound Wooten.
Edgar finished with 21 points. Ayala (33-4) fell behind, 33-19, at halftime when it was outrebounded, 21-4. Manteca shot 70% in the first half (14 of 20). In the second half, Ayala started pressing on defense and closed to 41-38 in the fourth quarter before Wooten took over again.
"It was hard the whole game rebounding," Edgar said.
Manteca, with players 6-8, 6-9 and 6-8, outrebounded Ayala, 45-23.
In the strangest of twists, Alameda St. Joseph Notre Dame called upon a 14-year-old freshman named Kobe to deliver a victory against Playa del Rey St. Bernard.
With 11.1 seconds left and Notre Dame up, 52-50, Pilots guard Jade' Smith was fouled and hit the court. With no timeouts left and Smith needing medical attention, 5-5 Kobe Keiner was sent in to try to make two free throws to ice the game. Keiner made both, enabling the Pilots to come away with their sixth state title, 55-50.
"I was pretty relaxed," Keiner said.
St. Bernard (19-17) fell behind early, closed the gap in the fourth quarter, finally tying the score with 5:53 left on two free throws by Julian Ross. But Smith was tough to stop throughout. The 6-foot-3 junior guard finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Ross and Robert Fuller each scored 15 points for St. Bernard.