From teammates to foes, basketball continues to bind Patrick Roth and Mike Wall.
Once reserves at Lassen High School in 1985, when the bulk of their action came during practice, Roth and Wall had no notion then they would one day face off as coaches in an NBA arena with a high school championship on the line.
And, yet, here they are.
Cosumnes Oaks, winner of 28 consecutive games on the floor and coached by Roth, will play Folsom, winner of 18 in a row and coached by Wall, on Saturday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II boys final. It’s perhaps the most anticipated game of the championship weekend at Sleep Train Arena. Family and friends of both coaches, some dating to their Susanville roots, will be in attendance.
“Yep, same team, a long, long time ago,” Roth said with a laugh in reflecting back to his bench time alongside Wall.
Wall seeks Folsom’s sixth section championship and his third as coach since 2008, his previous two coming in D-I. Cosumnes Oaks, the newest high school in the Elk Grove Unified School District, is in a title game for the first time.
Both teams are terrific in the open court and just as effective in half-court sets. Folsom is led by sophomore guard Jordan Ford, wing Josiah Deguara and center Colin Russell. Cosumnes Oaks is led by forwards Alex Van Dyke and L.J. Reed, and guards Matt Muldavin, Jaaron Stallworth and Eric Toles. Muldavin made a late three-pointer to beat St. Mary’s in a quarterfinal and was given a standing ovation later at a burger joint.
In Wednesday’s semifinals, Folsom edged Grant 63-62 and Cosumnes Oaks rallied to beat Del Oro 55-52.
“The past six weeks have been a must-win for us,” said Roth, whose team forfeited 15 games for using an ineligible player tied to a paperwork gaffe. “L.J., it seems like at one point in every game, says, ‘OK, guys, it’s time to play CO basketball,’ and we just transform.”
D-IV track meet – Teams that thrive in the open court meet in the D-IV boys championship Saturday at Sleep Train in top-seeded Encina and No. 2 Natomas, which is located less than a mile from the arena.
Encina, led by seniors Donald Jackson and Nate Jefferson, rallied from 16 points down to beat Colfax 77-72 in overtime in a semifinal for its 13th consecutive victory. Matthew Coleman hit a buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime, and Jackson finished with 29 points.
Natomas has been led by Mekhi Williams, a 6-foot freshman guard who scored 31 points in a 66-62 semifinal win over Riverbank. Natomas has come a long way to the championship game, considering it won eight games last season.
Natomas second-year coach Brian Hamilton understands what it takes to win on the Sleep Train Arena floor. He was a Bee All-Metro point guard at McClatchy in 1993, when he led the Lions to the D-II section title.
Florin uprising – Florin embraced its underdog role as the No. 4 seed in the D-III girls bracket. The Panthers toppled top-seeded Vanden 45-38 in a semifinal and play No. 2 Modesto Christian tonight in search of their first section title. Florin lost in the D-I final in 1996 and ’97 and the D-II final last season.
Florin is led by senior forward Dalayna Sampton, who is averaging 19 points and 15 rebounds, and guards Judy and Julie Saelee, Desiree Dedrick, Jikara Sellers and Kynnidi Ricardo.
School sweeps? – Capital Christian and Modesto Christian are the only schools with boys and girls teams in the finals. In D-V today, Capital Christian’s boys seek a three-peat against Central Catholic behind senior forwards Nifae Lealao and D.J. Wilson, and the girls will play Brookside Christian in search of their first title.
Against Fairfield tonight, Modesto Christian’s boys will play for their second consecutive D-III championship and 16th overall in various divisions. Every title has come under Gary Porter, who is in his final season as coach. Porter earned his 500th victory with a 57-45 win over Christian Brothers in the semifinals.
Check sacbee.com for a video/photo preview of the section title games at Sleep Train Arena.