Santa Barbara High’s Stephen Davis got a kiss on the cheek from the opposing assistant coach during introductions for Tuesday’s basketball playoff game at St. Bonaventure.
“I wouldn’t say that was normal,” Davis said with a laugh, even though that Seraph coach was his father, Patrick.
But the younger Davis reciprocated in kind, with his playmaking and 15 points providing the kiss of death for St. Bonaventure in the Dons’ 62-53 victory in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3A playoffs.
“I’ve been saying it all year: He’s the engine that makes us go,” Santa Barbara coach Dave Bregante said of his junior point guard.
Davis combined all night with 6-foot-8 junior Bryce Warrecker, who scored 21 points and led all rebounders in Santa Barbara’s victory.
The Dons (27-3), the top seeds in Division 3A, now advance to the quarterfinal round where they will play host to Mary Star of the Sea on Thursday.
Davis nudged Santa Barbara ahead to cap the first quarter, 11-9, on a driving assist to Will Rottman. He also hit a three-pointer and a floater during opening period.
He admitted that “it was hard” having his father on the opposing bench.”He’s been talking a little bit ó just a little bit,” Davis said with laugh. “He’s usually in my corner, but today he was on the other side.”
His teammates missed eight straight threes until Davis made his second attempt to end the first half, giving them a 28-19 lead.
Santa Barbara held St. Bonaventure (17-9) to just 30.4 percent shooting in the first two quarters, although the Seraphs warmed up to make half of their shots after that.
“Our defense in the first half was just tremendous,” Bregante said. “In the second half, we couldn’t keep them out of the paint. They just kept driving by and driving by.”
The Dons began to pull away early in the third quarter Warrecker’s transition basket off a dazzling pass from Davis.
The play triggered a modest 9-4 run that gave them their biggest lead of the night, 41-27.
“I love playing with Stephen,” Warrecker said. “I’ve been going to school with him since second grade, at Washington Elementary School, and so I’ve been playing basketball with him forever.
“Over the years, we’ve built a good chemistry between us. He feeds me the ball when I get open, and I get it out to him when I’m double-teamed.”
St. Bonaventure star Kai Rojas, who played on youth teams with several of the Dons when he lived in Santa Barbara, keyed a Seraph comeback with a three-point play.
He scored seven points in the period but finished well under his average with 11 total.
“We felt he was their best player and we had to get him stopped,” Bregante said. “The thing he does well is go coast-to-coast, and we took that away from him.
“Jasper (Johnson) did a great job on him, (Jackson) Hamilton took him for a while, Aiden (Douglas) took him for a while. We did a great job on him.”
St. Bonaventure got as close as 44-40 on a fast-break layup by Mikey Hinkle, the game’s leading scorer with 22 points.
“I really love the way we competed,” Seraphs coach Patrick Frank said. “They knew that Santa Barbara was No. 1. We got behind a little bit, and then close enough to put some pressure on them.”
But a free throw by Will Rottman and a three-point play by Warrecker put the Dons back up by eight.
Davis’ step-back bank shot improved the lead to 10, 56-46, with 2:16 to go.
“He had a tremendous game,” Bregante said. “He made some big baskets, made some big assists.
“He’s playing against his dad, their team hasn’t lost here all year Ö There was a lot of pressure on him, and he handled it magnificently.”
The Seraphs, who missed 16 straight threes after a first-quarter make, made one last push by getting back-to-back bombs by Sebastian Cortes and Hinkle to rally within six points, 58-52, with a minute to go.
“They made a run, and we just had to grind it out,” Davis said.
They did it with two free throws by Johnson and two more by Davis to keep St. Bonaventure at bay.
The Seraphs made just 4-of-10 foul shots in the fourth period and were 14-for-27 from the line for the game.
“It’s been the one Achilles heel on this team because we haven’t been consistent shooting free throws,” Frank said. “We had the opportunities.”
The Dons move on to their next opportunity on Thursday at J.R. Richards Gym.
“The goal is a CIF title ó that’s what it’s been the whole year,” Warrecker said. “We’ve got to keep it going, so we’re not done yet.”