By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, CA–Calvin Hermanson, the unabashed scoring threat for the St. Mary’s Gaels certainly doesn’t look the part. From his one-size too big uniform, rec specs, headband and quirky, twitchy mannerisms, Hermanson has neighborhood pickup league written all over him.
On Saturday night, under the bright lights, the inexperienced Cal Bears didn’t know what to do with Hermanson.
In a battle of upper class nerds and fresh-faced freshman, St. Mary’s took Cal to school, winning 74-63 at Haas Pavilion in the first installment of a three-year agreement between the neighboring East Bay schools.
As a series providing entertainment value, this one needs growth as witnessed by the less than sellout crowd and Cal’s disjointed play.
“We looked young out there today,” coach Wyking Jones said of his Bears. “They have to figure it out.”
Hermanson scored 19 of his team-best 22 points before halftime as the Gaels shot 60 percent from the floor and raced to a 44-30 lead. Even with WCC Player of the Year candidate Jock Landale saddled with two fouls and sitting, the Gaels broke a 22-all tie and surged in the half’s final nine minutes.
Only once during the second half did the St. Mary’s lead dip below double digits even as the Gaels’ shooting cooled to 34 percent. But at critical junctures, they got buckets while doing a defensive number on Cal’s backcourt, starting with leading scorer Don Coleman and freshman Darius McNeill coming off his career best in scoring.
“Coleman is a tough cover, and he didn’t have his best night tonight. I think Tanner had something to do with that,” St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “Jordan (Ford) played well — he’s been playing well — and I think he’s just growing as a player into his role, which is a pretty big role for us. We need him to score, and he did a really good job on McNeill, who’s a good player, and had 22 last game. I think Jordan did a super job defending him. I think that was the difference.”
Ford came in averaging seven points a game and finished with 17 points, six rebounds. Like Hermanson, the sophomore guard was a handful for Cal as he transformed from scholarship athlete to Splash Brothers impersonator for several, second half possessions.
Marcus Lee led Cal with 23 points on 10 of 14 shooting, and his size and quickness bothered Landale in the post at both ends, but Lee’s offense didn’t get Cal back in the game, it merely kept them within striking range. Ditto for Nick Hamilton, who was 7 for 7 shooting in 31 minutes off the bench in his best performance as a collegian.
The rest of the Bears that saw action shot 9 for 32 from the floor, and Coleman was hounded into missing 13 of his 16 shot attempts. Jones felt his guys grew too anxious when things didn’t go well early on. Rushed shots, a trio of walking calls and other turnovers ensued which never allowed the Bears to get their crowd involved.
“They clogged the lanes, which made it hard for our guys to have driving lanes,” Jones said. They kept it tight– we could have benefitted from more drive and kick tonight — but it’s always that if this team digs itself into a hole, everybody tries so hard to make that 10-point play, and there’s no such thing as a 10-point play.”
The two schools met for only the second time in the last 12 years, with Cal winning the previous matchup behind Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown in 2015. The Bears will visit Moraga in 2018, and then host the Gaels in 2019.