PASADENA — There was a different energy in the air than there has been all season for the Renaissance Academy boys' basketball team when it took on Ribet Academy.
It could have been that it was the semifinals of the CIF State Boys' Division V Championships Southern California Bracket tournament or that the second-seeded Fighting Frogs bested the Wildcats by one point earlier this season in Harbor League play.
In the end, Renaissance got revenge and the one that mattered most in a 75-59 victory at Pasadena City College's Hutto-Patterson gym Tuesday night.
"Every possession counted because in the last game we missed six free throws, had two crucial turnovers and we lost," said Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke, who wasn't his normal calm self, pacing back and forth in the final quarter. "I wasn't going to let us lose this one. …We wanted this more."
The victory took the sting out of Ribet's 57-56 Harbor League victory over the Wildcats (27-6) in February.
"It feels great, especially beating them on the big stage and to go for the Southern California Regional [Championship game] now," Renaissance's Troy Fontanilla said. "It feels great."
The win puts the Wildcats in another rematch with fifth-seeded Village Christian in the Southern California Regional Championship game at Ontario's Colony High Saturday at 3 p.m. after Renaissance defeated the Crusaders, 60-44, in November.
Jessy Cantinol was key to the third-seeded Wildcats' victory. He finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, but his most vital contribution didn't show up on the stat sheet, as he got Ribet's standout center Idrissa Diallo, who fouled out with 3:39 remaining, into foul trouble.
Cantinol did it all while being in a world of foul trouble himself. He sat out most of the second quarter after picking up his second and third fouls with 7:21 and 2:30 to go in the first half, respectively.
The senior came back strong in the third quarter.
Renaissance was only up on Ribet (21-11) by two points, 35-33, three minutes into the third when Cantinol forced Diallo off the court with his third foul.
Cantinol made both of his free throws and the Wildcats took a seven-point lead, 40-33, on a jumper from Vince De Guzman, who finished with a team-high 18 points, and two more free throws from Cantinol.
"[Diallo] is a big dude and getting him out of the lane opened up the game for us and we were able to attack more without worrying about his shot-blocking ability," De Guzman said.
Diallo was subbed back in out of desperation with Ribet down seven with 3:36 left in the third quarter. He picked up his fourth foul with 30 seconds remaining in the third and Renaissance maintained its seven-point edge, 48-41, heading into the fourth.
"Once [Diallo] got his fouls we attacked and they couldn't attack Jessy because we had Gerrick [Uneau] down low and kept him on the perimeter," Cooke said. "Once [Diallo] got his third we kept going at him."
The Wildcats opened the fourth quarter with a 11-2 run to take a 16-point advantage — their greatest of the game to that point.
Cantinol capped the run with an exclamation point, as he rebounded a Ribet miss, charged up the court and worked a give-and-go with Troy Fontanilla before throwing down a dunk that pushed Renaissance's lead to 59-43 with 5:30 left.
Tyler Dorsey did all he could to keep the Frogs in the game as he cut the deficit to 59-49 with 4:26 to go and scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the final quarter.
The dagger came down on Ribet about a minute later as Diallo fouled out when he hit Uneau, who finished with eight points and nine rebounds, in the act of shooting.
Renaissance got contributions from all of its starters, as Rick Hilaire finished with 16 points, seven of them coming in the fourth quarter, and Fontanilla scored 13 points.
It was a back-and-forth game in the first half, as the Wildcats took a 19-8 advantage into the second quarter after finishing the first on a 12-4 run.
Renaissance got out to the big early lead by out rebounding the Fighting Frogs 10-2 in the opening eight minutes, but Ribet tied the game at 29 at the half after holding a 10-2 advantage on the boards in the second quarter.
Another key to Ribet tying the game was the play of Diallo, who scored eight of his 10 points and had six of his seven boards in the quarter, as Cantinol sat out most of the second quarter.