In defeat, the Folsom Bulldogs learned a lasting lesson Saturday afternoon.
They can compete against national-level teams anchored by athletes who are on the radar of name NCAA programs, and if thats among the moral themes gleaned in an otherwise downer of a season-ender, the Bulldogs will take it. Gladly.
A year removed from a 12-win, nonplayoff showing, Folsoms spirited run throughout these twist-and-turn playoffs finally met its match. St. John Bosco High School of Bellflower dominated in rebounding, was quicker in transition, altered shots and made more free throws to douse the Bulldogs 63-54 in the CIF State Division II championship game at Sleep Train Arena.
It wasnt for a lack of effort that the Bulldogs (32-3) couldnt win the programs first state title since 1985. If anything, it was a lack of leapers and open-court athletes to keep pace with the wildly entertaining and explosive Braves, nationally ranked as high as fifth earlier this season. Bosco (23-11) outrebounded Folsom 49-29 and outshot the Bulldogs 47 percent to 30. And the free throws. Folsom was ultimately undone there, making just 7 of 15 from the line.
And shooting from any spot has been a staple for the Bulldogs, whose 22-game winning streak stalled as the schools rooting section The Dog Pack stood and applauded the hustle as Bosco iced the game from the line.
We cant shoot 30 percent and miss that many free throws, bottom line, Folsom coach Mike Wall said. Give (Bosco) credit. Thats a great team that could be in the Open Division. Their length and quickness and ability to close on shooters and make us uncomfortable in shooting leads to some of that shooting percentage. But they didnt close in on us on the free-throw line, I know that.
Wall exhaled and eyed his glum group. The Bulldogs will return five starters and three key reserves. The future is bright, though Wall and assistant coaches Matt and his father Wayne Mills said they feel for the players because theyre living in the moment.
I cannot fault our effort, the way we battled to the end, Wall said. Its all the great things I love about this team.
As he has all season in performing beyond his years, Jordan Ford led Folsom in myriad ways. The sophomore point guard scored 20 points while driving, hitting floaters or bombs. He had a four-point play with 1:03 to play that pulled Folsom to within 56-54 in its last-gasp effort to reclaim a lead it had throughout the first half. The final Folsom field-goal attempts, emblematic of the second half, were just short, and Bosco secured its first title by making six of eight free throws.
And heres the difference between Folsom and a good many public schools as compared to power private programs such as Bosco: scholarship talent. Ford has mid-major offers from schools such as UC Davis and UC Irvine, and hes sure to get major-college offers, too, because of his skill set and poise.
Said Bosco coach Derrick Taylor, Jordan Ford was the topic of discussion all week, before the game, during the game, and were still talking about him. That kid is a fantastic player.
Bosco, meanwhile, has a lineup of fantastic talent, led by 6-foot-4 point guard Tyler Dorsey, a junior commitment to Arizona who scored 24 points. Daniel Hamilton, a 6-8 senior forward headed to Connecticut, had 22 points and 13 rebounds. Another big recruit, 6-8 sophomore Vance Jackson, had 13 point and 17 rebounds.
Thats how we roll, Taylor said. We have the Big 3 and ride them.
What made Folsom unique this season was cohesion, exceptional fundamental play and defense. Junior center Colin Russell worked exhaustively on his game over the summer and had 11 points and nine rebounds Saturday. Josiah Deguara, a junior guard, scored nine on three-pointers. Underclass role players included Jared Wall, Gavin Smith, Alec Andrews, Lukas Hendricks and Parker Boone. Senior Pardis Vakili epitomized the teams unselfish nature. He didnt play much this season, but his leadership and practice effort earned him team-captain status.
It was an amazing run, coach Wall said. It kind of snuck up on us. We were hoping to just qualify for the playoffs, and then when we end up trying to win a state championship. Its a very weird change and experience. Now people will be expecting us to make another run. That does funny things to peoples psyche sometimes, but if any group can handle it, its this one.
Said Ford, We came out to play every night. Its a disappointing end, but well come back.
Folsom this academic year has already achieved a unique trifecta. It won Sac-Joaquin Section titles in football, wrestling and basketball, with basketball adding a NorCal title.
Its been a great year, said Deguara, a 1,300-yard receiver in football. All we wanted was just one more win.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.