Unbeaten Torrey boys top seed in basketball’s regional Open Division

Torrey Pines High's Nick Herrmann (1) becomes emotional after his game-winning shot on Saturday night.
Torrey Pines High’s Nick Herrmann becomes emotional after the team’s win against Cathedral Catholic in San Diego CIF Open Division basketball championships on Saturday. Herrmann hit a game-winning 3 with no time on the clock.
(Kristian Carreon / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

For the first time since the State CIF went to an Open Division playoff format in boys and girls basketball, the San Diego Section has a No. 1 seed in the Open Division of the Southern California Regional playoffs.

And Torrey Pines can thank senior guard Nick Herrmann for the honor.

The Falcons finished the regular season 29-0, and Herrmann was the man who kept them perfect with a 30-point performance, including a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer Saturday night, June 12, at Montgomery High in a hard-fought 63-60 win over Cathedral Catholic.

Torrey Pines is one of only seven San Diego Section teams to finish the regular season unbeaten.

With several opt outs in the playoffs, including the Cathedral Catholic and Mission Bay boys as well as Corona Centennial of the Southern Section (a team Torrey Pines beat), the Falcons get a first-round bye Tuesday, June 15, and will host the winner of Damien-St. Joseph on Thursday, June 17.

The Southern California championships are Saturday, June 19, at home sites.

There is no State Championship this season.

Cathedral Catholic opted out of the playoffs because three of its key players — Obinna Anyanwu (Cal), Alex Wade (Notre Dame) and Dillon Wilhite (Kansas) — were scheduled to start work with their college teams June 13.

“Cathedral Catholic is an outstanding team and I mean that in capital letters and bold-face type,” said Torrey Pines coach John Olive. “It took a great effort to beat them, diving for loose balls, taking a charge, winning every possession. And having the best player on the floor didn’t hurt.”

Herrmann scored 15 points in the second quarter as Torrey Pines came back from a double-digit deficit to take the lead at the half.

And he had 10 points in the fourth quarter, including the game winner.

After a scramble under the Torrey Pines basket, the clock stopped with one-tenth of a second to play with the scored tied at 60.

The officials huddled and told the clock operator to put five-tenths of a second back on the clock, just enough time to catch and shoot.

Herrmann started on the right side of the key, swung deep to the left, took the in-bounds pass from Nate Witte, and without a dribble hit the winning shot.

“Every day in the hospital, this is what I dream of ... hitting the game-winning shot to win the CIF championship,” Herrmann said. “This is just the best feeling ever.”

In September of 2018, Herrmann was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancerous tumor in his left leg. He had four surgeries and spent 70 days in the hospital. He missed the 2018-19 season, played well last season in his return, and led his team to a championship this season.

“Only my family saw all the hard work to get here,” Herrmann said. “The pain and the suffering were unreal. But every day in the hospital, I had a dream. I knew God had a plan for me, and now I am so blessed.”

Herrmann said he had four goals when the season started.

They were to win a league championship, go unbeaten and win the CIF Open Division championship.

“There is one more goal ... winning the SoCal,” Herrmann said. “I’m going to embrace this moment, then go back to work (today).”

In all, the San Diego Section got 36 teams into the SoCal Regionals —18 boys and 18 girls.

San Diego Section Commissioner Joe Heinz said the section was allowed to replace Cathedral and Mission Bay in the playoffs. Dipping into D-I quarterfinal losers, so San Ysidro and Francis Parker will get a chance to play.

The boys got a pair of No. 1 seeds — Torrey Pines and Coronado in the 4-A Division.

The girls got three No. 1 seeds — Mission Hills in 1-AA, Our Lady of Peace in Division 4-A and Victory Christian Academy in Division 6-AA.

The girls also have three teams in the Open Division: No. 4 Cathedral Catholic, No. 6 Bonita Vista and No. 7 La Jolla Country Day.

The boys had 12 first-round home games, the girls have 10.

— John Maffei is a sports reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune