Capital Christian High School boys basketball coach Terry Battenberg was channel surfing Friday morning when he came upon an ESPN show on Michigan's Fab Five, the Chris Webber-led freshmen phenoms who took the NCAA by storm in 1991.
"It talked about how they'd played loose, came out and had fun and didn't feel any pressure," Battenberg said. "It made me think: 'I wonder if we'll play like that?'"
Did the top-seeded Cougars ever a few hours later.
Underclass-dominated Capital Christian (25-5) came out furiously and played with poise and passion in defeating second-seeded Central Catholic 64-50 to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V boys championship at Power Balance Pavilion.
It was Capital Christian's first Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball title the Cougars won a Northern Section title in 2002 after five runner-up finishes from 2003 to 2007. It also was Battenberg's first section championship team in a prep coaching career that stretches to 1969 at Jesuit and has included stops at El Dorado, Ponderosa and Union Mine before he took over at Capital Christian this season.
It also is by far his youngest team.
Freshmen Trey Belton and Justice Shelton-Mosely, and sophomores Tyler Jennings and DJ Wilson started, and sophomores Nifae Lealao and Marcelas Perry played huge minutes off the bench.
"You could see they weren't scared to play out there," said Battenberg of his brat pack. "Like always, before the game ,they were loose: 'Let's get it on. When can we get on the court and play, coach?'"
Lealao, a 6-foot-5 man-child, had 15 points and seven rebounds, and Wilson added 11 points and six rebounds to lead the youngsters, but it was senior leader Matt Donlan who truly dominated.
The active 6-6 wing scored a game-high 22 points, including three three-pointers and several dunks to go with six rebounds and stellar defense.
Donlan was pleased to play a key role in his team's win, especially after the way the Cougars' season abruptly ended last year.
They suffered a controversial 59-58 quarterfinal loss at Summerville in which the host team scored the winning basket after the buzzer sounded.
"It feels like a blessing in disguise that we were able to put that chip on our shoulder and come back harder, come back stronger and come back with that fire and intensity," said Donlan, the Golden Empire League MVP. "Last year, it hurt so bad. I felt so bad for the seniors that they had to go out like that."
Battenberg, 65, knows all about tough losses and character tests. In his last appearance at Power Balance in 1996 with Ponderosa, his Bruins lost a close semifinal to Rio Americano.
"We led by seven going into the fourth quarter, and we wound up losing by one or two," Battenberg said. "It was a heartbreaker. But winning one like this makes up for it."
Capital Christian and Central Catholic (24-6) advance to the CIF Northern California Regional playoffs that start next week.