Natomas High School's boys basketball team won only six games last season, but the Nighthawks are now one of the intriguing teams for the 2013-14 season.
The Nighthawks went 5-0 and beat Northern California power Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco 63-60 in Sunday's fifth annual Cosumnes River College Summer Challenge tournament championship game.
Senior Jamison Lyons led the way with 12 points, including a steal and two free throws in the final 10 seconds, while senior Phillip Morgan added 10 points. Sophomore T.J. Lindsey had nine points and incoming freshman Mekhi Williams had eight, all in a down-to-the-wire second half.
Last March, Sacred Heart Cathedral won the CIF Northern California Regional Division III championship before losing in the state final both at Sleep Train Arena.
At the CRC Challenge, Natomas also beat defending D-I state champion Pleasant Grove 52-46 and two-time Sac-Joaquin Section D-II champion Antelope 59-57 in overtime. In addition, the Nighthawks topped Laguna Creek 65-59 and Elk Grove 49-38 during the 32-team, three-day event.
"We've got everybody back from last year, plus a half-dozen underclassmen coming up," said Natomas coach Brian Hamilton, a former McClatchy standout. "We're going to have some tough decisions to make in the fall.
"I think we'll be a playoff team and contend for a league title next season. But the key will be everyone bringing up their GPAs."
Hamilton coached the highly successful "Play Hard, Play Smart" Amateur Athletic Union program before stepping away to coach Natomas. He said he got the job last fall a week before the first day of tryouts.
Natomas went 1-13 in nonleague play before finishing 5-5 in league.
"I think our struggles last year helped us to build character," Hamilton said.
Brendel's sneak preview Trent Brendel got a head start Sunday on what it will be like to run on Cal's Edwards Stadium track surface.
The Bears' signee and recent Granite Bay graduate won the 800 meters and placed fifth in the mile at the 54th Annual Golden West Invitational in Berkeley.
It was the first time since the mid-1960s that the event was run outside of Sacramento.
Brendel won the 800 in a personal best of 1 minute, 53.09 seconds. His mile time was 4:21.27.
Davis' Nick Denton won the boys' shot put with an effort of 58 feet, 8 3/4 inches and was third in the discus (151-7). Center's Xavier Howell won the boys' high jump (6-5 1/2). Howell had the state's best jump this year (7-0).
North triumphs, twice A base hit by North MVP Gabe Meza of Granite Bay in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the North a 10-9 walk-off victory over the South in the large-school Optimist All-Star baseball game Saturday night at McAuliffe Field.
Franklin's Tyler Blake was selected the South MVP in the 42nd annual game featuring some of the area's top graduated seniors.
Behind North MVP Ethan Liddle of Lincoln's triple, double, single and five RBIs, the North defeated the South 11-7 in the small-school game. River City's Byron Farrell was selected the South MVP.
National champs Two former area softball standouts helped lead Concordia University of Irvine to victory in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championship in Columbus, Ga.
Freshman third baseman Hannah Howell from Del Campo and junior catcher-first baseman Annette Merjano of Del Oro (by way of Sierra College) helped the Eagles win their first national championship.
Concordia (52-3) went 7-0 in the tournament and beat Spring Hill College of Mobile, Ala., 8-3 in the championship game.
For the season, Howell batted .359 with 42 RBIs. Merjano batted .320 and had 41 RBIs.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.