The Mount Si boys basketball team has experienced ups and downs through the first month of its season. After going through the lows of losing to Churchill (Oregon) and Union earlier in the season, the Wildcats got to experience the highs of winning the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational Tournament from Dec. 26-30 in Rancho Mirage, California.
“They got humbled a bit at the beginning of the season,” Mount Si head coach Jason Griffith said. “They’ve now experienced both sides of the spectrum.”
A 28-point performance from Tyler Patterson led the Wildcats to a 60-55 victory over the Mayfair Monsoons (California) in the MaxPreps National Division title game on Dec. 30 at Rancho Mirage High School. Patterson was lights out from beyond the arc, hitting eight 3-pointers.
“He played up to his capabilities,” Griffith said. “When he shoots like that, I don’t think we’ve lost a game.”
The tournament gave the Wildcats the opportunity to face some of the top high school basketball players in the country. Against Mayfair, they were tasked with slowing down the Monsoons two star guards; sophomore Dior Johnson and senior Josh Christopher. Christopher had a game-high 41 points, but Johnson was held to six points, thanks in large part to Patterson’s stellar defense. Griffith said Patterson, the reigning KingCo 4A defensive player of the year, was dialed in and focused defensively in the championship game.
With their triumph, the Wildcats became the third team from outside California to win the tournament, which started in 2002.
Last season, the Wildcats’ third-place showing in Rancho Mirage provided the team with plenty of confidence. After returning from Rancho Mirage last year, the Wildcats won 18 straight games before losing in the the state championship game to Gonzaga Prep. Griffith said he hopes their championship performance this year will have the same effect on the team.
“Anytime you go to a national-level bracket and win, you feel good about it,” Griffith said.
One of the standout players for Mount Si was sophomore guard Bennett O’Connor. Griffith said O’Connor has needed to play with more confidence this year, so a strong tournament could be just what he needs to get going.
“(O’Connor) took a really positive stride,” Griffith said. “He did a good job of elevating his game.”
Griffith said forwards Hayden Curtiss and Jack Williams also had strong tournaments for the Wildcats. Griffith said it’s important for the team to get depth scoring to help out their two stars.
“We have to have guys take pressure off of Jabe (Mullins) and Tyler (Patterson),” Griffith said.
The Wildcats opened the tournament with a 66-45 victory over Catalina Foothills (Arizona) on Dec. 26. Patterson led the Wildcats with 27 points and Mullins added 23 points. In the win, Patterson eclipsed 1,000 total points in his high school career.
Mount Si suffered its first and only loss of the tournament to the Capital Christian Cougars (California), 58-41, on Dec. 27. Mullins had a team-high 19 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats booked their ticket to the championship game with a 67-57 victory over the De La Salle Spartans (California) on Dec. 28. Patterson had 27 points and eight rebounds, Mullins registered 14 points and 10 assists and O’Connor added 15 points.
Along with Patterson being named the most valuable player of the tournament, Mullins and O’Connor were both named to the all-tournament team.
Mount Si returned to league play with a convincing 60-42 victory over the Skyline Spartans on Jan. 3. Mullins led the way with a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds.