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  • Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

    Jesuit's Isaiah Bailey, left, is defended by Folsom's Colin Russell during their game at Folsom High School, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. (Genevieve Ross/Special to the Bee)

  • Genevieve Ross / Special to the Bee

    Folsom's Colin Russell, center, battles for the ball against Jesuit's Malik Duffy, left, during the first quarter at Folsom High School, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. (Genevieve Ross/Special to the Bee)

Russell rises to occasion as No. 2 Folsom tops No. 3 Jesuit for Delta River title

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 - 11:09 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 - 6:40 am

A year ago, Colin Russell was so far down the bench and so far off the talent radar, you needed a GPS to find him.

This season?

He’s standing tall and proud as a focal point for a Folsom High School basketball team that isn’t necessarily star-heavy but has a superb collection of complementary components that blends beautifully as one.

Russell had his best game of the season (14 points, 12 rebounds) on a night his gritty No. 2 Bulldogs had to have all hands in the mix, in Folsom’s 73-69 victory at No. 3 Jesuit in Carmichael on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-8 junior center is proof of what work ethic and drive can produce, and his teammates and coaches hailed him for his efforts as they clinched the Delta River League championship outright in remaining unbeaten in Sac-Joaquin Section play.

“I wasn’t even on the map a year ago,” Russell said. “I just needed to really work, get dedicated, get the mental part in. Tonight, everyone got involved.”

Said Folsom coach Mike Wall: “Colin took another big step forward. He just went right at them. This was a phenomenal high school environment. One of the funnest regular-season games I’ve been a part of.”

Much like the first meeting Jan. 31, this one was a pressure cooker with an overflow crowd that made for a playoff atmosphere. Folsom won the first meeting 58-55 in overtime despite leading scorer Jordan Ford being held to four points in the first half. The steady sophomore point guard made plays late in that contest, however, and had 17.

This time, Ford had two points at the half as waves of Jesuit defenders checked him, and again, he made plays down the stretch. Ford had 14 points and provided deft ballhandling and smooth passing in setting up teammates, including finding Russell on a give-and-go. Russell scored, was fouled and his three-point play gave Folsom a 62-57 lead with 3:46 to go.

Ford hit a runner in the lane for a 69-65 lead with 59 seconds left, and he made three free throws down the stretch to ice it.

“That’s probably the best defense that I’ve faced, but I was able to find other guys and help out,” Ford said. “Big win. Colin Russell has been amazing for us. He’s been the difference.”

Jared Wall, the coach’s son, scored 19 points, including five three-pointers, and he supplied his typical baseline-to-baseline hustle. Alec Andrews, a classic Folsom role player, scored 13 points. Josiah Deguara, Pardis Vakili, Parker Boone and Lukas Hendricks also contributed.

Lake Lutes, Jesuit’s smooth-shooting 6-8 wing, scored 28 points, and versatile teammate Isaiah Bailey had 25 and 14 rebounds. Lutes hit a corner three to pull to within 67-62 with 1:33 to go and teammate Nick Hilton had a three to pull to within 67-65 with 1:24 to go, but Jesuit got no closer.

Both teams are just getting warmed up. Folsom (25-2) expects to be the top seed for the Division II playoffs and Jesuit (24-3) will likely end up with the No. 1 seed in D-I. It has lost only to Folsom in Sac-Joaquin Section play.

“This was the ultimate exhibition,” coach Wall said. “This was a dress rehearsal for the playoffs. Are we ready? Yeah, I think both teams are ready.”

No. 11 Burbank 77, No. 10 Kennedy 70 – Jalen Coates scored 24 points for the host Titans (20-7), who needed to beat the Cougars (19-8) in the Metropolitan Conference finale to secure a D-II playoff spot. Had Burbank lost, it would not have qualified for the playoffs as it would have placed fourth in the league. The Metro was granted only three playoff spots (Sacramento and Kennedy have the others). McClatchy, 2-0 against Burbank this season, was aced out of the last spot.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson

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