Jordan Ford could be in the middle of an earthquake, flood or fire, and he’d be the calm, composed one leading everyone to safety.
The Folsom High School sophomore point guard barely breaks a sweat when leading his Bulldogs on the basketball court, even in the biggest games, relishing any challenge hurled his way. His deft ballhandling, floor awareness, poise and 33 points keyed a 79-62 victory over Cosumnes Oaks on Saturday night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship.
And with a boyish grin and soft tones, he assured his team can be even better.
Folsom (29-2) won its 19th consecutive game and moved to 6-0 in section finals. Coach Mike Wall has guided three championship teams since 2008, but never has he had a team this young, this versatile and resilient. All told, he has a Cadillac of a team headed by an unassuming Ford.
“There’s a calmness about this team with an ability to close games out,” Wall said. “We’re such an unselfish group, and Jordan is the facilitator. He instills confidence in all of us.”
Ford later explained the origin of his maturity: A board game.
“I played a lot of chess as a kid,” Ford said, prompting a roar of laughter from his teammates. “I won two state championships, in kindergarten and first grade. You have to be patient and think in that game, too.”
Ford is surrounded by a cast of superb complementary pieces, each capable of having big moments in big games. Gavin Smith, Alec Andrews and Lukas Hendricks each scored nine points. Colin Russell, like Hendricks an inside player, muscled inside for eight points and eight rebounds. Josiah Deguara had six points and four assists, and Parker Boone and Jared Wall provided depth off the bench with ballhandling and defense in facing a Wolfpack team (14-17) used to running teams off the floor with fast breaks, inside moves and three-point shooting.
Cosumnes Oaks, winner of 28 consecutive games on the floor coming in, was led by Alex Van Dyke and Eric Toles, who each scored 19. But Cosumnes Oaks seemed to lose its motor when Van Dyke, the team leader headed to UCLA on a football scholarship, fouled out with 5:09 to play and his team trailing 59-56, and Folsom then blew it open with an 18-2 run.
The three-man officiating crew called 40 fouls after three quarters and 52 total. That Folsom handled it all was further proof of a team that continues to come of age despite not having any senior starters, Wall said.
“Someone asked me what the best thing is about our team,” Wall said. “We’re versatile. We can pressure teams, we can run, we can shoot the three, we have guys who can dribble and drive. We morph into a team that we need to be, and it’s a credit to the guys for being able to adjust.”
The title continued a wave of momentum this academic year. The football team won back-to-back section titles, including in D-I last fall. The wrestling team won its first D-I section wrestling title, and now this.
Folsom expects to land a high seed in the NorCal Regional D-II playoffs that start next week. Folsom, a 12-win team a year ago, started this season 7-0 despite the absence of four key football players. Hendricks is the team’s defensive stopper at 6-foot-4, able to check guards, forwards and bigs.
“I feel like I can stop guys, and I love defense and rebounding,” Hendricks said.
Hendricks may beat his man most of the time on defense, but he tried and failed to beat Ford in chess.
Cosumnes Oaks also will advance to the NorCal Regionals, though as a lower-seeded road team. With Van Dyke, Toles, L.J. Reed, Jaaron Stallworth and Matt Muldavin leading the way, the Wolfpack seems capable of another run. Perhaps even a rematch.