Coaches often refer to athletics as an extension of the classroom, teachable moments to be had at every turn.
And so it was for three regional high school basketball teams that came up short Saturday afternoon in their quest to win Sac-Joaquin Section championships at Sleep Train Arena.
When West Campus lost Division IV games in boys and girls, and Antelope in girls D-II, the schools’ communities felt anguish, too. Students, faculty, cheerleaders and band members all packed into rooter buses to energize the NBA venue.
The closest game, the one that came down to the final play, capped a trying afternoon.
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West Campus called timeout and plotted an inside play to Isaiah Bates to win it. His shot came up just short at the buzzer, allowing Central Catholic of Modesto to hold on 47-46 and celebrate its first title since 1988.
It was the first finals trip for the Warriors of the Sacramento City Unified School District, a team coming off of a spirited victory over what had been the lone unbeaten team in Northern California, Liberty Ranch.
“We’ll learn from this, grow from it,” West Campus coach Fred Wilson said. “We learned that you’ve got to play every possession hard, like it was your last. We talked about that all season, playing hard. If you play at 80 percent on a play, it’ll catch up to you, especially against a really good team like Central Catholic. And free throws and turnovers? Can’t make mistakes like that.”
Darien Davis and Jeryn Lucas had 14 and 11 points, respectively, to lead the Warriors. A 6-foot-6 forward, Bates had eight points and 10 rebounds. West Campus, perhaps a bit awed by the venue and stakes, made 9 of 21 free throws and shot 16 of 50 from the floor for 32 percent. Josh Hamilton led Central Catholic, mostly known for football, with 18 points.
The silver lining on an otherwise dark-gray sky for the three local programs is knowing their seasons live on. All section finalists advance to the CIF Northern California Regional tournament that starts next week, but the road back to Sleep Train Arena for title games on March 18-19 for the runners-up will be daunting. They’ll have to win on the road in early rounds.
And film study in the coming days? More teachable moments.
“We’ll watch a lot of film of ourselves,” West Campus’ Wilson said. “We’ll see what we did right, what we did wrong and learn from it.”
Brookside Christian 69, West Campus 60 – Aarion McDonald scored 21 points and had seven rebounds, and Zhane Lewis had 12 points and 16 rebounds to power the top-seeded Knights of Stockton past the second-seeded Warriors for the D-IV championship. It marks the program’s fourth title since 2012, spanning different divisions. Namiko Adams had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Kiara Jefferson had 16 points for the Warriors, who lost section-title games in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
West Campus had 21 turnovers, were outrebounded 61-37 and made just 4 of 11 free throws. A lot of those issues are correctable, coach John Langston said.
Vanden 74, Antelope 54 – Dazzling senior guard Kiana Moore had 22 points and seven rebounds, and she weaved through pressure with deft ballhandling, as the second-seeded Vikings claimed D-II honors after winning it in D-III a year ago. Moore is the first Vanden player to sign with a Pacific-12 Conference program, Utah. Angelica Baylon and Nia Johnson each scored 16 points for top-seeded Antelope, which also received 13 points from Nadia Johnson. The Titans advanced to their first title game.
Antelope coach Sean Chambers told his group that turnovers doomed them, 26 in all. Antelope wasn’t helped, either, by being outrebounded by seven and shooting 34 percent.