In sizing up his fast-forward Grant Pacers, coach Deonard Wilson offered wide eyes and a deep sigh as he peered over his bifocals.
And then he looked to the heavens from within Dave Hotell Pavilion.
“I can only say that I’m so blessed to coach this great group,” the veteran coach said Friday night, half out of breath. “So fun.”
Grant turned a 47-43 halftime lead into its personal track meet, racing away from decades-long rival Sacramento 93-61 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff game in Oak Park.
The Pacers (25-5) turned on the jets in running the break, making the extra pass, hitting shots inside and out in smothering a Dragons team accustomed to keeping pace with all comers. Grant sparkled as a senior-led group was a half-step better than Sacramento, which starts all sophomores.
Cameron Oliver, Grant’s versatile 6-foot-8 forward, scored 30 points on an array of jumpers, baseline moves, alley-oop dunks and forceful follow-up slams. Point guard and floor leader Donovan Brown scored 17 points, several on blasts to the basket. Big guard Jeremee Churchill had 16 on jumpers, breaks and dunks, and yet another senior guard in Jordon Echols, the team’s X-factor, scored 19 with his balanced game.
Grant opened the second half with a 21-2 run to stamp its ticket back to Sleep Train Arena, where it will play top-seeded Folsom on Wednesday night in a semifinal. Sacramento finished 23-6.
“That was a great second half, our best of the season,” Wilson said. “Cam Oliver, Donovan Brown, Jeremee Churchill, Jordon Echols, they just led us.”
Oliver and Churchill were extra motivated by the presence of Bobby Jackson, the former Kings guard and assistant coach now on the coaching staff with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who play the Kings at Sleep Train tonight. Jackson worked with Oliver and Churchill in AAU ball in recent years, and he caught this game from the far baseline, slowed by a left leg injury that requires a brace and crutches.
“Fun to watch these guys,” Jackson said.
Oliver couldn’t help but rib his mentor, reminding Jackson this is indeed a young man’s game. Jackson was hurt playing a pickup game.
“I teased Bobby about his gray whiskers, too,” Oliver said. “We played great. We want more.”
Cosumnes Oaks 76, St. Mary’s 74 in Stockton – Team captain Matt Muldavin hit a late three-pointer, and the Wolfpack celebrated when the Rams’ Gabe Vincent missed a three-pointer at the buzzer. Cosumnes Oaks has won 27 consecutive games on the floor (later forfeiting 15 for using an ineligible player). L.J. Reed scored 21 for Cosumnes Oaks. Vincent scored 40 for the Rams.
Cosumnes Oaks next plays Del Oro, which blasted Del Campo 73-49 for its 24th consecutive victory.