This time last year, Brian Lopez was attending San Marcos High, only dreaming of one day doing what he did Wednesday night.
The sophomore, who transferred to Bishop Diego and became eligible for the season on Dec. 28, 2019, was the key difference for the Cardinals in their CIF-SS 5AA first-round game against AGBU of Pasadena.
Lopez went a perfect 4-for-4 from deep in the second quarter, en rout to a career-high 15 point performance, leading Bishop Diego to an 81-48 victory over AGBU at home.
“I just came in ready to play. I haven’t done my best the past couple of games so I figured I’d step up in a playoff game,” Lopez said.
“It just feels great and I’m just glad I could be there for my team and help us get the win.”
The Cardinals were trailing 10-8 after the first period, then completely ran away with the contest.
Lopez, who made his first appearance in the game to start the second quarter, started the frame with a triple and from there, both teams traded baskets until they were tied at 15-all.
From there, Lopez stole the show. The sophomore guard knocked down three consecutive treys, kickstarting what would be a 20-0 run Bishop would use to lead 35-15 with just 1:21 left in the first half.
“I just felt confident. I knew my teammates were there for me if I missed or made it so I figured, just let it fly,” Lopez said.
“I just went with the flow and let the game hit me.”
During the run, Lopez also picked up a steal and dished out a great assist to Kai Morphy.
Lopez said his decision to attend Bishop Diego came primarily due to its prestigious academics but added he also wanted to play for a great basketball program and said the transition has not been too tough.
“I fit pretty well. I feel like they were missing something like the things that I had so I feel like I fit in pretty good and now we’re in the swing of things and we’re just getting closer and closer,” Lopez said.
Lopez was not the only Cardinal finding success in the second period, however. All-in-all, Bishop Diego shot 11-for-17 from the floor, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range.
Matthew Cunningham, who scored a game-high 21 points, scored seven in the second quarter going a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, and knocking down an and-1 opportunity late in the second half.
“I think we just know what we’re capable of when we all work together. And then once that happens I think we can do anything honestly,” Cunningham said.
“We’re not about individual play here so when anyone’s feeling it, we just get them the ball and get out of the way but we still always work as a team.”
AGBU scored just two baskets in the second period and none after Bishop ended the half on a 22-5 run. The five points were scored at the foul line.
Bishop led 37-20 out of the break and picked up right where it left off, starting the third period on a 10-0. Connor Streett scored all of his 10 points in the third period, four of which came on the run to start.
With just under a minute remaining, Lopez knocked down his fifth three of the night extending Bishop’s lead to 21.
In the fourth quarter, a bunch of normal reserves saw valuable playing time and made the most of their opportunity, en rout to a huge, 33-point win.
“it’s been a long season, we’ve had some ups and downs and I felt like we were peaking, and, believe it or not, we relaxed on them a little bit so we kind of had some easier practices the last few times. I think that helped them and I think it re-energized them because I think we were kind of beating each other up in practice and so giving them that time helped them come out fresh,” Bishop Diego coach James Coronado said.
With the win, the Cardinals will face de Toldeo in the second round on the road. Despite having to test the CIF waters away from home now, Coronado still believes his team is destined for a run.
“I think these draws favor us you and I think we’re poised to make a good run. Like I said, I feel like we’re deep and we’re playing well at the right time so I’m excited about our chances,” Coronado said.