BERKELEY -- One moment captured the theme of the day for The Bee’s top two ranked high school basketball teams, and it wasn’t favorable.
Damien Banford, all 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds of bouncer body and heft for Newark Memorial, barreled into a collection of courtside seats at Cal’s Haas Pavilion in pursuit of a loose ball, like a train greeting a compact car. The chairs, 10 of them linked together, never stood a chance, and neither did No. 2 Jesuit or top-ranked Capital Christian as seasons of great promise met a humbling dose of resistance.
Banford’s physical approach set the tone for the Cougars of the North Coast Section as Jesuit suffered its first defeat, 60-50 in the MaxPreps Martin Luther King Jr. Classic.
Some two hours later, Capital Christian succumbed to the balance and quickness of longtime power Bishop O’Dowd, 86-60, in a meeting of teams that could see each other in the NorCal Open playoffs in March.
In this business of education, lessons were learned the hard way, and the coaches who absorbed defeat vowed immediate recovery.
“Sometimes you have to get outside of Sacramento to find out what you really have, and then you make the best of it and grow, one way or another,” said Derek Swafford, whose young Sac High Dragons beat Salesian of Richmond 68-61 in the late game as Tre Finch scored 24 points and Solomon Young had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
O’Dowd 86, Capital Christian 60 – Ivan Rabb looked the part of national recruit with 31 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in showcasing versatility for the Dragons of Oakland that elicited applause and nods of approval from a sea of college coaches on hand, including Cal’s Mike Montgomery.
Rabb, the No. 1 junior prospect in the country, scored inside and out – and above the rim. The 6-foot-10 center threw down a one-handed alley-oop in the second half and saluted the crowd in one, smooth, swift motion. Rabb upstaged Capital’s 6-9 Michigan-bound D.J. Wilson, who had eight points and seven rebounds. Guard Uchenna Iroegbu led Capital (15-3) with 19 points.
“We learned that we can’t turn the ball over, especially unforced turnovers, against a team like that, and as coaches, we learned that we have to stick with what works best for us in rotations and defense,” said Capital coach Devon Jones, whose team has no other NorCal losses. “We have a very good team with five veteran starters, but we didn’t play with enough intensity or focus. I’d rather have the loss now instead of the NorCal Open finals, and this is a potential matchup.”
Said Capital center Nifae Lealao, who had eight points, “Ivan Rabb had like 16 dunks, and we didn’t respond. It’s good for us to play them now. This loss won’t define us.”
O’Dowd shot 58.6 percent and Capital 35.7.
Newark Memorial 60, Jesuit 50 – The Cougars (10-7) didn’t make a field goal in the game’s first 10 minutes, and then couldn’t miss, scoring at will inside and shooting 71 percent in the second half as Jesuit’s school-record start came to an end.
Matthew Thomas, a 6-8 forward, had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Newark, which lost to Sacramento 54-49 early in the season. Isaiah Bailey led Jesuit (18-1) with 17, and Nick Hilton and Lake Lutes had 13 and 12, respectively. What can the Marauders gain from a loss?
“Hopefully a lot,” Jesuit coach Greg Harcos said. “We’re not as good as we think. They’re kids. (Newark) took us out of what we wanted to do, and we didn’t respond. We’re not undefeated, and I’m OK with that. You don’t want that on you. We’ll get better.”
Said Lutes, “We needed a wake-up call and got one. It’s all about learning from what we did poorly and making adjustments.”