When these decades-long rivals squared off in January, Kennedy High School earned a seven-point victory in serving notice that it was a team to consider again in the Metropolitan Conference title scramble.
In the rematch Thursday night in Oak Park, the No. 4-ranked Sacramento Dragons served notice that they are a team to consider again come Sac-Joaquin Section championship time.
The Dragons taller, inspired, quicker to loose balls and more active rebounding crushed the No. 7 Cougars 73-42 to lock up the program's ninth conference championship since 2000 under coach Derek Swafford.
They now aim to win the program's fourth section title since 2007 and first in Division II.
"In high school basketball, you know anyone can lose to a good team; and I don't care how good you are, it's going to happen, and it happened to us when we played Kennedy last time," Swafford said. "When you lose, there's always something you can improve on. We've gotten better, and we can still get better."
The Dragons (20-6, 12-1) are anchored by veteran senior leaders Aaron Cameron (15 of his 21 points in the first half), Joseph Barnes (10 points) and James Hadnot (six points and 10 rebounds), and now suddenly by De'Von Boyd, who played his first minutes of the season.
Boyd, a guard, was initially thought to be lost for the season because of a meniscus knee ligament tear on the eve of the season. He rehabilitated to the point of a satisfactory recovery and drew an ovation from a full and enthusiastic Dragons crowd when he entered the game with 4:49 to play and the Dragons in cruise control with a 64-33 lead on the strength of a 31-7 run from the second quarter into the third.
Boyd scored on a fast break and hit a top-of-the-key three-pointer.
"It feels great to be back," Boyd said. "I knew how much I really cherished this game when I was out. And we needed this game. Losing to Kennedy was our wake-up call."
Cameron, a sharpshooting guard who had six three-pointers, said the future is bright for the Dragons with so many freshmen contributing. They include the team's leading scorer and rebounder, 6-foot-6 Devin Young, who had nine points and blocked five shots. Fellow freshman Christian Terrell had eight points. Jermaine Henderson didn't score, but he played superb defense.
"They're really good," Cameron said of the youngsters. "For us seniors, we know this is our time. We're working hard, getting closer and closer to being the team we want to be. It'll be the playoffs soon and it'll be, 'Bring it on.' "
"Now, teams can't pack it inside on our big guys," Swafford said. "I'm so happy for De'Von. We're really balanced now, and we can be pretty good."
Joey Healow led Kennedy (16-9, 11-2), which not long ago was the hottest team in the region with a 12-game winning streak, with 13 points.