Titans headed to semifinals

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 - 12:05 am

It's one of the special perks of playing high school basketball in the Sac-Joaquin Section.

If your team is talented enough and plays well enough at the right time, the playoff reward can be a trip to Sleep Train Arena, the home of the Kings.

That benefit no doubt added a little more intensity to Friday's Division II quarterfinal between No. 3-seeded Antelope and No. 6 Burbank in front of a large and spirited home Red Zone rooting section at Antelope High School.

With seniors Isaiah Ellis and Rashard Thornhill each scoring 13 points and Gabe Bealer and Tyler Winston adding 10 apiece, Antelope prevailed 57-40 and will play No. 7 Rocklin in Wednesday's semifinals at the North Natomas arena. Rocklin defeated No. 18 El Camino 77-65.

It will be Antelope's fifth trip to the NBA court, pretty impressive for a program that's only in its fourth year of varsity play.

Antelope already has played in two D-II section semifinals and two championships at the site, having won last year after finishing as the runners-up the season before.

"Most kids dream of playing once there, so we've been very fortunate," said Antelope coach Rob Richards. "For most players, it doesn't happen very often."

Burbank understands.

This was the fifth consecutive time (four previously at D-I) that the Titans (20-9) were eliminated in the quarterfinals, despite having won 106 games during that span.

Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell would have loved to have this year's preserving group, led by senior David Straughter and juniors Clifford Lyles and Jalen Coates, be rewarded with a trip to the former Arco Arena and Power Balance Pavilion.

"I have had six guys quit and one transfer at the beginning the season, and we still won 20 games," Ferrell said. "I'm proud of this bunch."

Burbank took another hit on Wednesday when Coates, the starting point guard who was averaging 15.4 points, broke his left foot during Burbank's win over Gregori of Modesto.

Still, Burbank hung with Antelope through most of the game – it was within five points, 28-23, midway in the third quarter – but never got untracked offensively against Antelope's big interior of 6-8 Isiah Quintero (12 rebounds, five blocks), 6-7 Ellis (seven rebounds, four blocks and four charges taken) and the 6-5 Bealer.

The Titans shot 27 percent from the floor. Straughter led with 12 points and Lyles had 10 before fouling out midway in the fourth quarter.

Friday was the first time in six weeks that Richards had all his key players available.

"We've had sprained ankles, injured knees, the flu and guys on recruiting visits," Richards said.

Ellis can't wait to lead his teammates into Sleep Train Arena. He's the only varsity member to have played there as a sophomore and a junior.

"I told our younger teammates to be ready for the excitement and the hype," Ellis said. "There's nothing better than to represent your school and play in a big arena and on the same floor as the Kings. "

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