Marin Catholic’s NorCal hopes fade against fast-paced Lincoln

Boys soccer: Marin Academy sets up rematch with Archie Williams in NorCal final

Marin Catholic looked to this year’s seniors to lead the Wildcats through some of the toughest and most rewarding times of the past season. In the end, the challenges might have been too great, but the rewards – intangible as they are – will be something the Wildcats will remember forever.

“Since I’ve been here, the state title has been our goal. Obviously we still haven’t achieved our main goal, but it’s been a momentous year,” Wildcats guard Kyle Winters said after No. 4 seed Marin Catholic fell to No. 5 Lincoln of San Francisco, 75-49, Thursday night. CIF Northern California Division III Quarterfinal.

“To get to the regional quarterfinals and finals (North Coast Section Division IV), those are great accomplishments,” Winters continued.

Marin Catholic head coach Mike Saia credited Winters and the senior core with setting the Wildcats up for a long journey, which began as schools began to emerge from the shadow of COVID-19.

“I’m so proud of the senior management, and it starts with. Kyle (Winters),” Saia said. “He started working more with the team when COVID hit in 2020 and took on more of a leadership role. Before this season, he had guys in the gym. It shows that he is a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room. The kids have huge respect for our seniors – including Kyle, Nick Moshy, Colby Kaplan, Dylan Ryssemus, Declan Ochoa, Charlie Allen, Noah Deitch – everyone who has led this team. It’s just a tribute to our captains, a tribute to our seniors.

Lincoln (22-3) entered Thursday night’s game determined to continue the run he started in 2020 before COVID-19 derailed his championship hopes. The Mustangs reached the 2020 NorCal Division IV Finals and were scheduled to face Brookside Christian, but COVID canceled the game.

“This team still has that chip on their shoulders,” Lincoln coach Carl Jacobs said. “They play with that chip and that attitude, and it shows.”

Shots from range gave Marin Catholic (23-10) an early lead on Thursday, but Lincoln then responded with his own to turn things around as the players rained down 3 points in the first half of a high-energy game .

Wildcats senior Deitch hit two straight runs and added a layup on an 8-0 run that gave Marin Catholic a 15-6 first-quarter lead.

Deitch finished with four 3-pointers during a 20-point night. Winters had 16 points and five rebounds for the Wildcats. Meanwhile, junior Caden Maas came in with two 3-pointers and led the Wildcats with 10 rebounds.

“I think we did a good job defensively at the start, but we just couldn’t handle the pressure in the last half,” Saia said. “But we were there. I think we took enough shots and answered everything they had in the first half.

Eva Aquino, seated in the stands, watched her three grandsons energize Lincoln during a second-quarter rally. Junior Justin Aquino hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points on a 13-0 run that gave the Mustangs a 30-26 lead.

The Mustangs outscored the Wildcats 9-7 from beyond the arc on the night, with Justin Aquino scoring five of them en route to a 21-point night. Jeremiah Aquino added 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Senior Jordan Aquino blasted his way through Marin Catholic’s defense for 15 points with three rebounds and three steals.

Quentin Kennedy had 11 points, four rebounds and three steals for the Mustangs, while Nikita Kartsev added nine points and eight rebounds.

“I’ve played against these three brothers since we were all young,” Allen said. “I respect the way they play.”

The Wildcats looked a little dazed and confused as they left the field at halftime, suddenly trailing 33-31. Marin Catholic, however, dug deep to keep fighting in the third quarter. Deitch and Winters kept shooting, while Ryssemus (four rebounds) and Allen (seven rebounds) did their best to slow the Mustangs charge.

“At this point in the season, every team you play is a good team,” Jacobs said. “It wasn’t a question of who was the best team. It was a question of who would last the longest. Our guys kept making plays throughout the game.

After 8 minutes of home and away play, Lincoln still held a marginal five-point lead over the Wildcats. The momentum on the field and the energy in the stands were turning in Lincoln’s favor. The usually thunderous intensity of Marin’s Catholic student body faded when confronted by San Francisco’s boisterous legion of Lincoln supporters. Even students from other schools in San Francisco made the trip to cheer on the Mustangs.

“It’s great that even people from other schools in town are coming to support a public school,” Jacobs said.

Lincoln’s fast play, focused on getting the ball into Team Aquino’s hands, led to a 12-0 run to start the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.

“We missed a few easy looks and didn’t take our free throws,” Saia said. “Against a team like (Lincoln), you can’t do that. This whole team is fabulous. They can all pull the 3, and all three Aquino brothers are just fabulous.

The Wildcats struggled to mount a response. They pushed too many errant shots and poorly played passes against a dangerous defense. Lincoln finished the night with 13 interceptions. Costly mistakes in the face of Lincoln’s resolve proved too much for the Wildcats to overcome.

“They just capitalized on every mistake we made,” Saia said. “And they forced us to make a lot of mistakes.”

This season is over for the Wildcats, but work continues for next season.

“You’re getting ready to start going back to work now,” Saia said. “Hopefully the foundations have been in place for a number of years. This group of seniors definitely emphasized that foundation.