Harvey Kitani was the basketball coach at Fairfax for 35 years. He was 2-0 in state championship games and is so superstitious that he made sure to repeat as many things as he could this weekend to make sure his new school, Rolling Hills Prep, might have the same luck as the Lions.
So he took the players to Buca di Beppo restaurant. And his coaches on Friday morning bought the same turkey sausage bagel sandwich as they did during wins in 2004 and 2007.
Rolling Hills Prep needed all the luck it could get to pull out a 47-46 victory over Watsonville St. Francis to win its first state Division V championship on Friday morning at Golden 1 Center.
Chris Koon, who had given Rolling Hills (29-2) its one-point lead with a basket with 1:08 left, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 17.1 seconds left. St. Francis decided not to call timeout.
“I have complete and total faith in our guys,” Coach Ed Kelly explained.
St. Francis wasn’t able to get off a good shot. A three-point attempt from beyond the top of the key faced defensive pressure from JT Tan. It missed as the buzzer sounded.
Rolling Hills was able to overcome a six-point halftime deficit. Koon, who was playing for the Bishop Montgomery JV team last season, finished with 13 points. Tan had 12 points and Alex Garcia 11. Jason Gallo had 15 points for St. Francis, but only two came in the second half.
Kitani became the second coach in state history to win championships at two different schools.
“I feel even better because of where they came from,” he said referring to his team’s development over the course of the season.
Kitani was tough with his players, but that toughness brought out the best in freshman Vaughn Flowers. With Rolling Hills desperate for a basket, Flowers delivered a three with the 30-second clock winding down for a 43-41 lead in the fourth quarter with less than four minutes left.
“To his credit, he’s 15 years old,” Kitani said. “I’ve been riding him hard all year and he has the courage to knock it down.”