Preseason favorites Mission, Washington set to clash in city title game 

click to enlarge Mission High
  • Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Guard Frank Hall (20) will hope to lead top-seeded Mission to a San Francisco Section championship today against Washington at 7 p.m. in Kezar Pavilion.
While the stakes may not be win or go home, don’t expect a leisurely stroll through the motions when Washington takes on Mission for the San Francisco Section boys’ basketball championship at Kezar Pavilion tonight.

“This will be an intense game,” Washington coach Jolinko Lassiter said. “When Mission and Washington play each other, it is always highly competitive and entertaining.”

Top-seeded Mission (24-6) looked dominant in its 93-48 win over Balboa in the semifinals on Wednesday, and second-seeded Washington (26-6) churned out a workmanlike 65-50 victory over Lincoln.

By virtue of advancing to the section championship, both Academic Athletic Association teams qualify for the NorCal playoffs (Washington will compete in Division I and Mission in Division III).

Still, there is plenty at stake for the two teams.

For Mission, it’s a chance to extend its recent dominance of the San Francisco public-school basketball scene, with the Bears aiming to capture their fourth city title in six years. Washington’s veteran team, featuring 11 seniors, will look to cap of its impressive legacy with a win at Kezar, a victory that would provide the school with just its second city title in the last 30 years.

The two teams split their regular-season matchups, with Washington winning the first contest 72-65 on its home court, and Mission taking the second meeting 83-71 in a game more in line with the Bears’ frenetic pace.

Whatever team can dictate the tempo of the game tonight will likely prove to be the victor. Washington, featuring four players taller than 6-foot-4, including senior stalwarts Darren Ho, Ernest Moore and Armani Hall, will hope to keep the game in the 60s. Mission, led by speedy backcourt players Frank Hall and Anthony Porter, will press and run in hopes of having the game played in the 80s.

“The first game [against Mission], we did a good job handling their pressure and shot the ball well, but the second meeting, we did not shoot the ball well and we did not take care of the basketball,” Lassiter said. “A team like Mission feeds off turnovers and missed shots because it helps them get their transition game going, and when they play at that pace, they are tough to beat.”

The two teams may offer a contrast in styles (unlike Washington, Mission has just two seniors on its roster), but they entered the season as league co-favorites, and have kept that lofty mantle throughout the year, making it a fitting championship game showdown.

“I told Jolinko at the beginning of the season that we better not slip up before the title game,” Mission coach Arnold Zelaya said. “They kept up their end of the deal and so did we. Now hopefully we can represent The City well in NorCals.”

The girls’ title game, tipping off at 5 p.m. to precede the boys’ contest, will pit regular-season champ and longtime power Lowell (20-7) against rival Lincoln (23-8). The Cardinals have won an astonishing five straight San Francisco Section championships, and eight of the past nine.

The one school that prevented Lowell from going 9-for-9 during that stretch? Lincoln, which captured the title in 2009 during a memorable 29-win season.

While maybe not at the heights of their 2009 team, this year’s Mustangs have already proven they can play with the Cardinals, as evidenced by Lincoln’s 45-42 win at Lowell on Feb. 6 (Lowell won earlier in the year 59-40.) By virtue of advancing to the title game, both teams have earned a spot in the NorCal Division I playoffs.

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Will Reisman

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