The wheels nearly fell off the Folsom express Tuesday night, the championship hopes suddenly veering off to the ditch.
After rallying late to reach Saturdays CIF Northern California Division II boys basketball championship game, Folsom High School went back to its formula for success to close the deal. The Bulldogs competed without pressing the issue, they shared the ball, and they rolled.
Scoring inside and out, defending with purpose and rediscovering that cohesion, Folsom belted Cosumnes Oaks 68-51 at Sleep Train Arena in an anticipated rematch.
There was little suspense because the Bulldogs refused to allow it. Folsom (32-2) beat Cosumnes Oaks (16-18) by 17 on March 8 in the Sac-Joaquin Section final at Sleep Train, using an 18-2 run to blow it open down the stretch.
This time, there was smooth sailing from the start, unlike Folsoms 58-57 stop-and-start semifinal victory over Serra of San Mateo, when the Bulldogs were uncharacteristically timid and tight.
We went back to just playing playing confident, composed and relaxed, Folsom coach Mike Wall said. The last game, we were too caught up in the moment. We knew who we had to play today, how great Cosumnes Oaks is and what we had to do.
Assistant coach Matt Mills reminded the Bulldogs before tipoff how badly Cosumnes Oaks wanted this rematch, the revenge motive, and Wall added, Be careful what you wish for.
A year after winning 12 games and missing the playoffs, Folsom won its 22nd consecutive game with a lineup of underclassmen, headed by cool and calculating point guard Jordan Ford, who led all scorers with 20 points in another nearly flawless game. He provided ball handling and kept everyone involved, and the support crew again was reliable with five others scoring eight or more points.
Jared Wall scored 11 and captured his teams grit and drive. The sophomore guard was cracked in the chin in the first half and left with blood everywhere to have it taped. Upon returning, Wall was back on the floor, sprawled for a loose ball. He embraced his father long and hard after the game as the Bulldogs won their first NorCal title since 1985, in D-III.
Thats what we do compete, and nothing is going to hold us back, said Jared Wall, a towel pressed to his chin. Its definitely special to do this with my dad and these teammates.
Josiah Deguara scored nine points for Folsom, and Alec Andrews, Lukas Hendricks and Colin Russell each had eight in another display of balance that makes Folsom so difficult to defend. Keeping up with Ford is a chore by itself, but dealing with all of the Bulldogs? A real nightmare.
Thats a great team, Cosumnes Oaks senior forward Alex Van Dyke said. Ford is a phenomenal player, and everyone feeds off of him.
The Wolfpack feeds off of Van Dyke, a football star headed to UCLA on scholarship. Van Dyke was saddled by foul trouble in all three games Cosumnes Oaks lost on the court. He had three fouls in the first quarter, sat the entire second quarter and tried in vain to rally his team. Van Dyke scored 14 points. L.J. Reed had 13 points and Jaaron Stallworth 11.
Wolfpack players were upbeat in defeat, enjoying the fact they made it this far. Cosumnes Oaks forfeited 15 games for using an ineligible player but rallied to inch into the playoffs and then won five postseason games in finishing 31-3 on the floor. Several key players will return.
Its not the time to put our heads down, coach Patrick Roth said. Basketball is about life lessons. We learned so much about ourselves, about perseverance, staying together, being a team and family.
Folsom also embraces the family feel. The public school now will take on a private-school heavyweight for the state championship in St. John Bosco of Bellflower, which beat Compton 72-55 in the SoCal D-II final.
Mike Wall understands cycles happen in sports. The fun part, he said, is bouncing back. He won section D-I titles in 2008 and 2009 at Folsom, but his previous two teams combined for 24 victories.
I thought we could win (the Delta River League) and the section championship this season, but those were distant-type goals, Wall said. The consistency and maturity of this team blows me away. Its a testament to their competitiveness and the character of each kid. They worked so hard, and then we kept winning. Weve raised the bar.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.