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Mission taking a shot at S.F. history

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    Mission taking a shot at S.F. history

Photo: D. Ross Cameron, Special To The Chronicle

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Mission players exult after the beating host Vanden-Fairfield, 72-68, in Saturday’s NorCal Division 3 championship game.
Mission players exult after the beating host Vanden-Fairfield, 72-68, in Saturday’s NorCal Division 3 championship game.

Photo: D. Ross Cameron, Special To The Chronicle

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Mission’s Ben Knight (15) takes off on a fast break against Vanden during the first half of a boys’ high school basketball game on Saturday, March 18, 2017 in Fairfield, Calif.
Mission’s Ben Knight (15) takes off on a fast break against Vanden during the first half of a boys’ high school basketball game on Saturday, March 18, 2017 in Fairfield, Calif.

Photo: D. Ross Cameron, Special To The Chronicle

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Mission taking a shot at S.F. history

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Mission boys basketball coach Arnold Zelaya heard the whispers behind the backhanded compliments.

You guys are really good … for a city team.

You guys are going to have a great this season … in AAA play.

Zelaya bit his lip this season and made sure his players didn’t pay attention.

And now, after 34 wins in 35 games, the Bears are one victory from claiming the first state basketball title in San Francisco Section/public school history.

They play Villa Park (Orange County) at 4 p.m. Friday in the Division 3 title game at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

“They’ve had their eyes on this the whole time,” Zelaya said. “We’ve been hearing that other stuff for years. But this year, we truly believed we could compete for a state title. Now, it’s here.”

The reaction from San Franciscans outside the Mission fan base has been overwhelming, the 48-year-old coach said. He has led Mission to three straight SFS titles and five in six years, but following regional wins last week at St. Ignatius and Vanden-Fairfield, both jammed-packed venues, the feedback is nonstop.

“When I’m overlooking ‘honey get milk,’ and ‘get grocery’ texts from my wife, I know it’s getting crazy,” he said. “It’s honestly hard to keep track of all the outpouring of congratulatory messages.

“It’s great, but I can’t get caught up in it. I have a job to do. We have a job to do. It’s back to the grind. Villa Park is down in Southern California practicing.”

The Spartans (27-6) are led by 6-foot-4 point guard Myles Franklin, his 6-4 sophomore brother, Julien, and 6-foot lights-out shooter Caleb Banuelos. Daelyn Bams, a 6-9 senior, comes off the bench to cause problems on defense.

“They’re definitely bigger than us, but so is everyone at this point,” Zelaya said. “They have a similar feel to Vanden, but these guys pressure even more.”

Campolindo-Moraga, a Northern California D3 semifinalist, downed Villa Park 62-56 in the St. Francis tournament in late December.

“Frankly, I think we caught them by surprise, especially early,” Campolindo coach Steven Dyer said. “We jumped on them pretty good, then hung on for dear life. They’re super talented. I’m not at all surprised they made it to the state final.”

Zelaya hasn’t doubted his Bears, either. And it hasn’t been all two-time AAA Player of the Year Niamey Harris. The 6-2 senior guard (15.8 points per game) is the unquestioned leader, but the rest of the Bears are poised, quick (16.9 steals per game), tenacious and confident.

They include:

Jayden Foston (5-9, 13.4 ppg, 80 three-pointers): He doesn’t like to admit it, but the senior guard mimics Stephen Curry. Not a bad man to copy. “He has great court vision, likes the ball in his hands and can definitely knock down shots,” Zelaya said.

Jamion Wright (5-11, 12.5 ppg, 64 threes): A third-year player (like Foston) and a two-year starter. “He does a little bit of everything,” Zelaya said. “He’s hard-nosed and serious.”

U’Jah Pratt (5-9, 5.9 ppg): The junior point guard and his twin, I’Jah Pratt, are all business. “U’Jah passes incredibly well. Their older brother, Herman Pratt, was a big contributor. Great family. Great spark.”

Tyrese Johnson (5-8, 7.1 ppg): Johnson doesn’t start but often finishes games. “He’s probably the fastest thing in the city. He’s our best on-ball defender. He’s invaluable.”

Robert Lee (6.3, 6.9 ppg): A vocal leader with a high basketball IQ, Lee seems destined to be a coach. “He coaches on the court. He runs the offense. He’s a good passer. He wears a size 15 shoe, so we’re hoping he grows.”

MaxPreps.com senior writer Mitch Stephens covers high school sports for The Chronicle.

State basketball championship schedule

All games at Golden 1 Center (Sacramento) and carried live on CSNBA unless noted.

Friday

D5 girls: Eastside Prep-East Palo Alto (22-8) vs. Rolling Hills-San Pedro (32-3), 10 a.m.; D5 boys: St. Francis-Watsonville (29-2) vs. Rolling Hills (28-2), noon; D3 girls: Campolindo-Moraga (27-6) vs. Rosary Academy-Fullerton (29-5), 2 p.m.; D3 boys: Mission (34-1) vs. Villa Park (27-6), 4 p.m.; D1 girls: McClatchy-Sacramento (31-4) vs. Windward-Los Angeles (29-4), 6 p.m. (CSN Plus); D1 boys: James Logan-Union City (28-5) vs. Roosevelt-Eastvale (25-8), 8 p.m. (CSN Plus)

Saturday

D4 girls: West Campus-Sacramento (29-4) vs. Los Osos-Rancho Cucamonga (27-3), 10 a.m.; D4 boys: St. Patrick-St. Vincent-Vallejo (27-7) vs. Helix-San Diego (31-5), noon; D2 girls: Vanden-Fairfield (30-5) vs. Mater Dei-Santa Ana (24-8), 2 p.m.; D2 boys: Moreau Catholic-Hayward (25-9) vs. Esperanza-Anaheim (29-3), 4 p.m.; Open girls: Mitty (28-2) vs. Clovis West-Fresno (33-2), 6 p.m.; Open boys: Woodcreek-Roseville (32-2) vs. Bishop Montgomery-Torrance (30-2), 8 p.m.

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