Two coaches, two teams, two decidedly different outcomes.
Mike Wall wore the expression of satisfied leader after his fourth-ranked Folsom High School Bulldogs routed No. 8 Sheldon 79-38 in a Delta River League opener Wednesday night in south Sacramento.
Wall was delighted because his team shared the ball, hit shots, went back-door, ran the fast break, had putbacks and offered waves of depth and defense.
His Sheldon counterpart, Mike Bradley, could only sigh at the scene unfolding in front of him.
In his first night as interim coach taking over for his good friend Joey Rollings, the Huskies looked the part of shell-shocked youngsters.
Rollings has coached Sheldon to a record four consecutive large-school Sac-Joaquin Section championships. But he was not present Wednesday, serving the first night of a four-week suspension handed down by the Elk Grove Unified School District, the result of an investigation into allegations of undue influence to attract players to Sheldon, claims Rollings denies.
Folsom (16-2) entered the game cautiously, having been dominated in DRL openers by Sheldon (5-9). This time, the Bulldogs did the dominating, dulling the enthusiasm of a large Sheldon rooting section and band.
“Basketball is big here, and the students get into it,” Wall said. “Look at the banners on the wall. We usually get torched by Sheldon early, but we met the intensity.”
And then some. The Bulldogs proved they are hardly a one-man gang led by guard Jordan Ford, who averages 23 points. The sophomore scored 11 and had terrific support from Josiah Deguara and Colin Russell. Both had 15 points, with Deguara hitting from the outside and Russell delivering inside.
Jared Wall, the coach’s son, led all scorers with 16, excelling with his ballhandling, passing, shooting and drives down the lane. His 3-pointer gave Folsom a 47-25 lead in the third quarter. Role players such as Lukas Hendricks (eight points) and Alec Andrews (a 3-pointer for a 61-30 lead) were examples of a complete team effort.
“When we play like that,” coach Wall said, “we’re as good as anyone around. Once we hit shots, our confidence started building and building, and everyone played hard.”
Sheldon starts four sophomores and a freshman, making for the youngest team in The Bee’s Top 20 rankings. Freshman guard Elishja Duplechan led Sheldon with 10 points. The Huskies trailed 14-11 after the first quarter and then really fell behind as Folsom pounced on missed shots and flawlessly executed.
“Our players got caught up in the emotion of the week, but it’s no excuse because they’re still basketball players who need to play,” Bradley said. “We’ll get better.”
Bradley said awareness for all is crucial in learning from the Rollings suspension. He said this includes parents. Some of the undue influence charges were linked to a parent of a Sheldon player encouraging a player from another school to consider Sheldon basketball, a CIF violation.
“Parents don’t try to hurt programs, as they want their kids to succeed,” Bradley said. “But I wonder if the district ever considered educating parents on some things, too. It can help.”