March 28, 2009
Lane watches Rocklin teammates play at Optimist All-Star game

Bee Boys Basketball Player of the Year Brendan Lane of Rocklin appeared at tonight's Optimist Boys All-Star Basketball Game at Center High School.

But he wasn't in uniform.

The 6-foot-10 senior watched from the stands and rooted for Rocklin teammates Anthony Romero, who played for the North Team, and Mads Frandsen, who played for the South Team.

The South won 100-92.

Lane is scheduled to play in the Kentucky Derby Festival Classic in Louisville on April 11.

March 26, 2009
From South Africa to Sac, it's been a rewarding trek for Avenant

Sacramento High School senior Chris Avenant has experienced a cultural odyssey unlike most of his area peers.

Born in South Africa and raised in Germany and the United States, Avenant was a key member of the Dragons' Sac-Joaquin Section Division III boys championship team this season, although it ended in a bittersweet fashion for him.

The 6-foot-5, 190-pound forward missed one third of the season, primarily because of injuries. That included most of the postseason after breaking his left wrist during a private training session.

"It was horrible," Avenant said of his time on the bench. "I kind of hate in general to watch people play. That it was my team and I couldn't help contribute, made it so much harder to watch."

The Dragons had a deep enough roster to reach the CIF Northern California D-III championship game at Arco Arena without Avenant's services. But in their 77-65 loss to Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco March 14, Dragons coach Derek Swafford said that Avenant's absence might have been the difference.

"You are talking about a person who is active on the boards and brings more energy than any kid on the court," Swafford said. "If we would have been at full strength, no doubt we'd be back in the state finals."

The Irish, led by 6-foot-5, 235-pound USC football recruit Kevin Greene, dominated the Dragons inside.

Avenant, the team's leading rebounder, also was one of their top defensive players.

"I took a lot of pride in leading my team in rebounding," Avenant said.

The McDonald's All-American nominee thought he might get one last chance to show what he could do on the high school stage at Saturday's 33rd Optimist Boys All-Star Game at Center High School.

But he decided to bypass the game that features many of the area's top seniors because he did not want to risk re-injuring the wrist, which is nearly healed.

Although missing a key part of the season may have cost him a scholarship, Avenant plans to play at the next level. He expects to attend Northeastern University in Boston in the fall, where he has been invited as a preferred walk-on.

The Huskies went 19-13 this season.

Avenant said he gained Northeastern recruiters' attention when he made an all-star team during an elite basketball camp in Los Angeles last summer.

Avenant didn't take basketball seriously until his sophomore year. He had been a competitive-club level soccer player previous to that, but his interest in the sport started to wane in high school.

"The game just stopped being fun for me," Avenant said of soccer. "You'd play a 90-minute game out in the heat during the summer and it might be 1-0 or 2-0. Basketball games aren't as long, they are more intense and high-paced and everyone pretty much gets to score."

He also had crossed paths with Jimmy Carroll, a star at Placer High School in the early 1990s who played at Utah and Nevada, then 10 years as a professional at several overseas stops.

Carroll, an assistant varsity boys basketball coach at Granite Bay High School, has worked religiously with Avenant for the last three years.

"He's kind of like an older brother to me," Avenant said. "He's the one who got me to play for the traveling teams, to go to places like Los Angeles and Boston for the all-star camps."

Moving to the East Coast won't be that big a deal for someone born a continent away.

Avenant is a native of Pretoria, South Africa, and said he still speaks fluent Afrikaans, the language that developed among the Dutch-speaking Protestant settlers of the country.

He spent two years living in Germany before moving to the United States, first living in Colorado, before moving to Placer County.

Avenant spent his first two years of high school at Del Oro in Loomis.

He said when his mother Chrisna decided to move to East Sacramento to be closer to a job, he enrolled at Sacramento High.

Although he was one of the top players on the Del Oro JV team his sophomore year, Avenant figured he'd be a role player at Sacramento, which was loaded with talent and had won the D-III section title the season before.

"I had played AAU with some of Sac's player," Avenant said. "I thought it would be fun because they had such a good team. But I didn't think I'd play much. In the summer I was pretty much the seventh or eighth man."

But by the time the season started his junior year, Swafford had him in the starting lineup.

"I told him when he first got here not to focus on playing time but getting stronger physically and mentally," Swafford said. "From there, he just blossomed."

Avenant averaged 4.0 points and 3.4 rebounds for a team that went 30-4 and advanced to the D-III state championship game. This season Avenant averaged 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds as the Dragons finished 26-7.

Although Loomis is a far cry from Oak Park, Avenant said the transition from a largely white (80 percent) suburban community to largely minority inner-city school (5 percent white) was seamless.

"The players really embraced me," said Avenant, the only white player on the team the last two seasons. "They took me in and treated just like any other player....They loved me and I loved them. It was family to me.

Being around those of different colors and nationalities has never been a big deal for Avenant.

When he was younger he'd spend summers at his grandfather's farm in South Africa. He said most of the friends he hung around with were Black.

"It's always been that way," Avenant said. "My parents and my grandfather had lots of friends who were black."

March 26, 2009
Woodcreek coach thinks Rocklin's Lane will transition well to college

There is much debate about whether Rocklin's Brendan Lane can be an impact freshman next season at UCLA.

Many scouting reports say the same thing: The 6-foot-10, 215-pound Lane is going to have to get stronger and tougher.

But there are no arguments that Lane is a skilled player with enough all-around ability to play power forward, small forward or even center in a pinch.

With the core of coach Ben Howland's team - seniors Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya - departing and freshman guard Jrue Holiday possibly headed for the NBA, next season could be a rare rebuilding year for UCLA.

Some Bruins fans viewed 2008-09 as a rebuilding year after the Bruins finished 26-9 and were blown out 89-69 by Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament. UCLA had reached the NCAA Final Four the previous three seasons.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Howland told the Los Angeles Times after the loss.

Among the key big men expected to return are current juniors Nikola Dragovic (6-9) and James Keefe (6-8) and freshmen J'Mison Morgan (6-10) and Drew Gordon (6-8).

Lane isn't the only big man among Howland's recruits.

Expected to enter UCLA in the fall are forwards Tyler Honeycutt (6-8), Reeves Nelson (6-8) and Mike Moser (6-7) and center Anthony Stover (6-10).

Woodcreek coach Burnel Pinkerton, who has had to try to defend Lane since his freshman season on the Rocklin varsity, thinks the senior will be a quick study in the college game.

"Big guys usually develop real slow, but Brendan has developed pretty fast," Pinkerton said. "I think even at 6-10, he can play small forward because he can take people off the bounce or shoot the three. He's an amazing athlete."

Having played on high-level Amateur Athletic Union teams and all-star squads that competed in Asia, Europe and Africa has already helped give Lane a leg up for what's ahead at the next level.

Lane also may be tougher than people give him credit. Being a 6-10 player at the high school level can sometimes have a downsize. Referees often allow smaller players to push and shove and draw offensive fouls simply by flopping, as happened to Lane on Friday against Eisenhower.

Pinkerton thinks that going to a high-profile school like UCLA will only reinforce Lane's prodigious work ethic.

And even in a media-scrutinized program like UCLA, Lane should experience less pressure than what he dealt with the last two seasons at Rocklin.

"He isn't going to be the man any more," Pinkerton said. "That may be a relief to him because he's pretty much had to play that role at Rocklin."

Pinkerton is looking forward to watching Lane play against some of the country's best college players on television, but it won't be nearly the same experience as seeing him up close and personal.

"In our second game over at our place he killed us all by himself," Pinkerton said of the 71-47 defeat to Rocklin Jan. 30 in which Lane had 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks. "At one point he dunked over us. He tomahawked it so hard it was one of those 'Oh My God plays,' Even for a coach I had to say, 'Wow.'"

March 26, 2009
Bee Coach of the Year Mike Wall has achieved notable milestones

In his 11 years as a head boys basketball coach, first at Foothill and then at Folsom, Mike Wall is proud of these accomplishments:

• His teams have made the playoffs every year.

• His teams have never had a losing season, despite some notoriously poor starts.

• His teams have always had a better record in the second half of league than in the first half.

That included Folsom's 12-0 run through the Delta River League, the section's toughest, this season.

"I was really worried about the string being broken this year after we went undefeated in the first half," Wall said. "But my guys came through by winning close ones against Pleasant Grove and Sheldon in the second half."

Folsom's flawless run in league, 31-2 overall record and second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship came as no surprise to those who have observed Wall through the years.

"I'm really impressed by what Mike has accomplished at Folsom," said Ponderosa coach Dave Millhollin. "What's nice is that he did it with a home-grown group, no transfers. His kids play hard, and they play the right way."

Wall played basketball and ran track at Lassen High School in Susanville.

The UC Davis graduate's first coaching assignment came at age 20 at Emerson Junior High in Davis.

By age 25, he was the head coach at Foothill, after Drew Hibbs left in 1994 to become the Sierra College men's coach. Wall endured a couple of lean years early.

"Is anybody really ready to be a varsity coach at age 25?" Hibbs said. "You don't really know. But through his knowledge and hard work he made himself ready."

Wall's 1996-'97 team won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship, despite some early adversity.

"We started the year 3-5 and then I kicked off our leading scorer and rebounder for some defiance issues," Wall said. "I remember telling the guys, 'We're going to be OK.' We ended up going 24-9 and made the NorCal semifinals."

Kevin Thomas, who later played for the Buffalo Bills, was the leader of a tenacious, defensive-minded squad that beat West of Tracy 62-53 for the section title, something that eluded Hibbs and Wall in their state title run (the Mustangs lost to Vacaville 61-60 in the section final but rebounded to take NorCal and state banners) in 1994.

"That was a special group of kids that stuck together," Wall said.

It also finally helped him emerge from the large shadow cast by Hibbs, who would later return to Foothill and win two section titles and another state championship.

"I finally started to get some respect," Wall said. "I think people started to say, 'Maybe this guy knows what he is doing.'"

Wall decided to leave Foothill to take the Folsom job when Ben Palafox stepped down after leading the Bulldogs to the D-II section title in 2000. Folsom had moved to a new, expansive campus in 1998.

"I liked the facilities, saw that it was a great community to raise a family and it was like where I grew up, in that it was a one-school town," said Wall, who teaches economics at the school.

He had two 20-win seasons at Folsom but there was criticism from some who thought the Bulldogs should have done better. But Wall said his decision to step away from high school coaching in 2002 had more to do with a lack of support for coaches by the then administration.

With a new administration and having coached a young group of Folsom-area players on the AAU circuit who were talented, dedicated an unselfish, Wall decided to return four years later.

Since then, the Bulldogs have gone 76-19 and emerged as a section and NorCal power.

Wall is quick to credit his players for his most recent run of succes.

"The spirit of togetherness by this group was truly amazing," Wall said. "The kids trusted each other and there was always someone ready to step up when needed.... When things get bad, there is a tendency for players to get down on each other. But not with these guys. They never stopped working together."

Wall says he has had a number of mentors through the years, including Hibbs, the late UC Davis coach Bob Hamilton, former Stanislaus State coach John Jones and current Sacramento State coach Brian Katz.

Bob Wall, Mike's dad, who coached several sports, including girls basketball at Lassen High School, also is available for some sage advice. The senior Wall now lives in Lincoln and attends most of Folsom's games.

"He shares his views of what he sees," Wall said. "Sometimes he offer some instructional tapes. But he's now more of a fan."

Wall isn't afraid to admit that he is a fan - of wife, Stacey. They have two sons, Jared, 11, and Cameron, 7, who one day may wear the Folsom High colors.

He says she has put up with a lot so he can pursue his other true love. That included supporting him while he was a young and poorly compensated assistant coach at Stanislaus State in the early 1990s, when he was thinking college coaching might be the way to go.

"She deserves some props," Wall said. "During the whole Turlock thing, she was the one supporting us financially and getting us through the lean years.

"She's put in an amazing amount of time working, taking care of the home and raising the kids."

March 25, 2009
Thank you and goodbye after 11 years--Quwan Spears

How many of you are familiar with the Prince's song "Sometimes It Snows In April"? Some of the lyrics include "All good things they say never last."

Those words best describe my situation at The Sacramento Bee. I was one of the many laid off last week. As they say in professional sports, I am a salary cap casualty in these tough economic times, asked to turn in my playbook or more specifically my pen and pad. My last day is Friday.

I leave The Bee after 11 years and what an exciting ride it was. I got a chance to cover some great games, athletes and met a lot of wonderful people on my journey. My plan is to land on my feet. I'm down, but not out. As one door closes, another door of opportunity will open. As a result, I'm very hopeful and excited about the future.

But before I move forward, I must look back and thank the many I met during my stint.

I have to thank the athletes, coaches, athletic directors, and parents. Whether you liked my stories or not, whether you agreed with my blogs or not, there is one thing we all can agree on and that is our love for sports, especially on the high school level.

It was through this experience I learned more and more about the importance of being a balanced reporter, one who had to be thorough and accurate in my reporting and always willing to tell the most vivid game, and emotionally filled feature, human interest and enterprise stories.

Most athletes hate to retire. But when they do, they like to go out as a champion and at the top of their game.

I can honestly say I am leaving The Bee as a champion and at the top of my game. I think I did some of my best work the last three years, especially the last 12 months earning The Bee's Kudos Award twice. I will always appreciate working for a solid newspaper like the Sacramento Bee.

Thanks again. Spears, I'm out.

My Best of List.

Best athletes
Sacramento State basketball player DeShawn Freeman
Sacramento High girls basketball player Vicki Baugh.
Sacramento State running back Charles Roberts
Monarchs forward-center Yolanda Griffith
Cordova running back James Montgomery
Sheldon High School basketball player DeMarcus Nelson
McClatchy girls basketball player Ariel Thomas
Oak Ridge girls basketball player Sara James
Sacramento girls basketball player Brittany Shine
Kennedy girls basketball players Kirsten Shimizu and Melody Khlok
Oak Ridge track field runner Alex Kosinki
Sheldon softball pitcher Jolene Henderson
Sheldon softball catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt

Best Teams
The 2008 Grant High School football team, which won the Open Division State title
The 2005 Oak Ridge boys basketball team, which won the D-II state title.
The 2008 Sheldon High softball team, which won the D-I section title
The 2001 Raiders, which lost to the Baltimore Raven in the AFC championship game.
The 2000 Sacramento State football team that finished 7-4

Best Coaches.
Sacramento State volleyball coach Debbie Colberg
Sacramento State football coach John Volek
Sacramento State basketball coach Jerome Jenkins
Rio Linda football coach Mike Morris
Jesuit football coach Dan Carmazzi
Cordova football coach Max Miller
Grant High Football coach Mike Alberghini;
Granite Bay Football coach Ernie Cooper
Oak Ridge/Vista del Lago football coach Chris Jones
Union Mine football coach Dave Johnson
Del Oro football coach Casey Taylor
El Camino girls basketball coach Bill Baxter
Kennedy girls basketball coach Brandon Yung
Oak Ridge girls basketball coach Steve White
St. Francis girls basketball coach Vic Pitton
McClatchy girls basketball coach Harvey Tahara
Sacramento girls coach John Langston
Oak Ridge boys basketball coach Steve Scott
Sacramento High boys coach Derek Swafford.
Sheldon Softball coach Mary Joe Truesdale
Elk Grove softball coach Jeff Alexander

March 21, 2009
Westchester belts McClymonds in an Arco D-I yawner

McClymonds feeds on the break, the open court and above-the-rim play.

Against a team every bit its equal - and at times much more - the defending CIF State Division I champions from Oakland were throttled at their own game and slapped with a dose of discipline and defense as Westchester of Los Angeles prevailed 49-31 tonight at Arco Arena.

The marquee matchup of the final night of a long, exhausting season - the capper of 10 girls and boys games - wasn't the fight to the finish everyone anticipated. Westchester (35-2) came in ranked second in the country and did just enough to reward coach Ed Assam a 5-0 mark in title games. The Comets also tied a SoCal record for wins in a season.

McClymonds (29-2) has gone 61-2 the last two seasons and was the first D-I school to reach the finals three successive seasons. But it was Westchester that hailed from the toughest region in the country, and it had to get past formidable foes such as Taft (which beat then national No. 1 Mater Dei in the playoffs), Fairfax and its national recruit Renardo Sydney and King of Riverside in the SoCal finals, the No. 3 team in the country.

McClymonds, meanwhile, hails from the micro-small Oakland Section, meaning it played one game - and needed just four playoff wins to reach the state finals. Westchester had to go 8-0 in the playoffs to reach Arco.

Westchester showed that it could play small and fast or big and deliberate, and it was the only team of the championship weekend that did not celebrate the achievement as there was no atmosphere in the second half.

The Comets took a 19-5 lead and was never really threatened. It was the Warriors' lowest scoring effort in several seasons - people shook their head wondering when it was held to this little. The school that graduated famed players Bill Russell and Paul Silas shot 10 percent in the first half in falling behind 24-11.

Dominique O'Connor led Westchester with 16, and high-flyer Dwayne Polee had nine and 10 rebounds. Damon Powell, perhaps the second best leaper in the state behind Polee, had 10 points and eight rebounds.

McClymonds shot just 20 percent - 10 of 49 - and floor-leader Will Cherry had nine points on 2 of 13 shooting with five turnovers.

How few were the sparks? Westchester managed three assists and McClymonds five. No wonder people yawned in their seats.

March 21, 2009
After today, state hoops finals will take one-year break from Arco

"The Road to Rabobank" just doesn't have the same ring to it, but for 2010 it will have to do.

That's because after McClymonds and Westchester finish with the Division I state title game tonight, the CIF State Basketball Championships will move out of Arco Arena for one year. Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield -- which has hosted the CIF State Wrestling Championships for several years -- will host the 10 championship games in 2010, the CIF announced today. The state championships will be back in 2011, but beyond that, the CIF is open to alternate sites.

The move is necessary to make room for the NCAA women's basketball tournament invading Arco for four days late next March.

Sacramento will host its own regional (Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds) sometime from March 28-31. University of the Pacific -- which was the official host of the 2007 men's first and second rounds -- will be the host institution.

The state championships will be held a week later in 2010 (the fourth weekend in March rather than the third) because of expanded NorCal and SoCal brackets taking effect next year.

This can be both good and bad.

Arco has hosted the state finals 13 of the last 14 years, and for the last 12 straight. The slogan on the T-shirts the monniker the CIF uses to promote the championships is "The Road to Arco." It's become part of Arco's identity, and with the Kings a lengthy rebuilding project, the championships provide some of the best hoops the Arena hosts all year.

From a practical and long-range standpoint however, this is ultimately a good thing. ESPN televises every game during the NCAA women's tournament and having three games on national television will only raise Sacramento's profile in the sports community, much the way hosting the Tour of California prologue did this past Valentines Day.

The NCAA has already shown some favor to Sacramento and Arco such as 2007 when it awarded the city and arena with the aforementioned men's tournament games and the women's volleyball final four.

Saying goodbye to the CIF state championships for a year will be tough, but they'll be back, and hopefully so too will the NCAA.

March 21, 2009
Tubby and Monty and recruits galore

Some pretty fair coaches are on hand at Arco Arena, and we're not just talking the high school crew leading state championship programs.

Cal's Mike Montgomery is here, making the rounds. So is Minnesota coach Tubby Smith, who has already landed guard Justin Cobbs of Bishop Montgomery.

Cobbs is a terrific shooter who had four three-pointers and 24 points in a one-point loss to Salesian in the Division IV title game, led by another talented recruit - destination unknown - in junior swing Desmond Simmons. All Simmons did was score 31 points and gobble up 19 rebounds, and we hear he has great grades to go with his promising game.

On Friday, we saw two UCLA recruits in Rocklin's Brendan Lane and Windward-Los Angeles Anthony Stover. Lane has an offensive game - inside and out - and he blocked 10 shots. Stover's offensive game is dunking, though he is an impressive defender at 6-foot-10.

Tonight's D-I game includes McClymonds guard Will Cherry, a nice recruit for Montana, and leaper Damon Powell. Westchester, ranked second nationally, has several recruits, too.

March 21, 2009
St. Mary's coach Gonsalves a real treat to watch

Though his team plays the game with an almost ruthless efficiency and likes to get out and run as much as any boys team -- maybe more -- the real treat when watching St. Mary's of Stockton's girls basketball team is the coach, Tom Gonsalves.

Gonsalves lives and dies with every play, opening tip to closing horn, up 40 -- common occurence -- or down by a few possessions -- which is not often.

About to close out his fifth state title and up three possessions, he's still stalking the sidelines, sleeves rolled up, getting the most from his players.

March 21, 2009
Salesian buzzer beater sinks Bishop Montgomery in D-IV boys final

Kendell Andrews made a lay-in as time expired to cap a late fourth-quarter comeback and defeat Bishop Montgomery 65-64 to win the Division IV boys state championship.

Leading 64-63 with 7.9 seconds remaining, Bishop Montgomery's Justin Cobbs missed the front end of a one-and-one and Salesian's Desmond Simmons grabbed the rebound. Simmons then ran the floor, lost the ball near the top of the key but teammate Jabari Brown scooped it up on the wing and found Andrews waiting under the basket.

"At first I thought (Brown) was going to shoot," Andrews said. "When he passed it to me I knew I had to finish it."

Simmons had a fantastic game, scoring a game-high 31 points and 19 rebounds, while Brown chipped in with 14 points and five boards. Cobbs, who will play for Tubby Smith next year at Minnesota, led Bishop Montgomery (29-5) with 24 points.

"Desmond had the game, Jabari made the play and Kendell made the shot," Mellis said. "I'm so proud of this team."

March 21, 2009
Not exactly a South romp at Arco overall, but it's early

Salesian gave hope and promise, then St. Mary's gave real hope and promise.

The South isn't going to sweep right on throw Arco Arena after all. After going 4-0 impressively on Friday, the South made it 5-0 after Mater Dei of Chula Vista charged back with a late 16-2 run to upend Modesto Christian in the girls Division IV championship game at Arco Arena.

Then Salesian of Richmond won on a fabulous buzzer beater by Kendell Andrews in downing Bishop Montgomery 65-64 in the boys D-IV game.

Three hours later, just now, St. Mary's of Stockton defeated Inglewood 71-62 in the D-III girls game as the Rams secured their fifth state title (never mind that Inglewood called a time out with .5 seconds to go, down nine, because, well, because it still had time outs; they were roundly booed).

Early in the day, there were rumblings that the South could go 9-1 in the 10 title games, just like it did in 2001.

But just when you think it's become a South-only party of late, it's not necessarily true.

The North won the overall games 6-4 last year. In 2007, the South prevailed 5-5. In 2005 and 2006, it was 5-5. In 2004, the North won 7-3.

March 21, 2009
Mater Dei of Chula Vista rallies late to down Modesto Christian

Modesto Christian had a state championship seemingly within its grasp. But the championship goods suddenly turned to sand and slipped away.

Mater Dei of Chula Vista used a late 16-2 run to stun the Crusaders 54-51 in the CIF State Division IV title game at Arco Arena today.

Brandi Henton scored 14 for Modesto Christian, which fell to 0-2 lifetime in title games.

Mater Dei, which closed the season with its 25th win out of 26 games, was keyed by Jhazmine Lynch and Ebone Henry, seniors who have played together since they were four years old.

March 21, 2009
Huge show of support at Arco impresses Rocklin's Taylor

Steve Taylor is used to seeing big crowds at Rocklin boys basketball games.

But even the Thunder coach was impressed by the huge show of support for the team in Friday's CIF Division II state championship game against Eisenhower of Rialto at Arco Arena.

Many of the 10,033 fans - one of the best Friday crowds in the history of the state finals - were there to root on a Thunder bunch that eventually fell 73-61.

"It's exciting to see a community come out and get behind a team like ours," Taylor said. "It's as much about basketball. But it's also that our kids are likable people. People want to support good kids."

March 21, 2009
Shots just didn't fall for Rocklin in loss to speedy Eisenhower

Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said his team's 73-61 loss to Eisenhower or Rialto in the CIF Division II boys state championship game at Arco Arena Friday night came down to momentum and scoring balance.

And neither worked in the Thunder's favor.

While Rocklin did a much better job defensively against Eisenhower's top scorers Andrew Bock and Nicholas Carter than in their nonleague loss to the Eagles in a December tournament in San Diego, the Eagles still showed enough offensive prowess to establish the free-wheeling, warp-speed game they relish.

Bock and Carter combined for 47 points in the previous win but were limited to a combined 28, including just eight in the first half, on Friday.

"Our goal was to keep those guys from going crazy," Taylor said. "You've got to give credit to some of their other kids for stepping up and making shots."

Bryan Bock, Andrew's sophomore brother, and 6-1 junior Alex Varner each had 11 points and also accounted for six of the Eagles' eight three-pointers.

It also didn't help that every critical call seemed to go against the Thunder.

When Varner tossed up a three-pointer from NBA range in the first quarter, the officials didn't see that it hit the shot clock above the backboard. That should have nullified the basket, but it wasn't called.

Then in the third quarter, with Rocklin desperately trying to get back into the game, the Thunder had baskets nullified when Brendan Lane and Cody Kale were called for offensive fouls.

"Those are momentum changers," Taylor said.

But the biggest factor in Rocklin's downfall, Taylor agreed, was a failure to make open shots.

Rocklin shot just 32 percent for the game and despite a significant size advantage - Eisenhower had no player taller than 6-4 - the Thunder was inconsistent around the rim.

Senior forward Pat Stover struggled in shooting 3 of 13. Even the 6-10 Lane, in finishing with 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks, missed several attempts near the rim.

"You can't miss those shots," Taylor said. "But that's the nature of the game sometimes."

Anthony Romero, with 17 points, was the only other Thunder player in double figures.

Kale, Jackson Cummings and Tony Williams, in combining for just seven points, also
were off their games offensively.

Eisenhower, meanwhile, had eight players score at least six or more points.

"Hats off to them because they made the shots they needed to keep us at bay," Taylor said.

March 20, 2009
Eisenhower downs Rocklin for D-II title despite monster game by Lane

Rocklin coach Steve Taylor thought his team was much better than the first time his Thunder played Eisenhower of Rialto at a December tournament in San Diego.

What Taylor and the Thunder learned Friday night in the CIF boys Division II state championship game at Arco Arena was that the Eagles also were a lot better.

Using its quickness and deft outside touch, Eisenhower defeated the Thunder 73-61, despite a huge game by 6-foot-10 Brendan Lane.

The UCLA-bound senior had 27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. Senior guard Anthony Romero added 17 points for Rocklin (32-3).

Creighton-bound point guard Andrew Bock topped Eisenhower (32-3) with 17 points, three assists and three steals. Three other Eagles - Alex Varner, Nicholas Carter and Bryan Bock - each scored 11 points.

But not Lane nor a huge pro Rocklin crowd -- attendance was 10,033 - was enough to stop Eisenhower, a team without a player taller than 6-4 and that also had defeated the Thunder 77-66 Dec. 27 at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic.

The high-decibel, blue-clad crowd that almost completely filled Arco's lower level helped Rocklin to come out strong. The Thunder twice held six-point first-quarter leads, but the up-tempo, tenacious Eagles' pace slowly started to take a toll.

Eisenhower outscored Rocklin 9-5 near the end of the second quarter to lead 31-27 at halftime. The Eagles continued to pull away as they went full bore on defense and the boards while tossing up dagger-like three-pointers at just the right time.

The Eagles made eight three pointers and also grabbed 41 rebounds, just six fewer than the much taller Thunder.

Rocklin, showing fatigue, struggled to make shots, especially in the final quarter when it hit just six of 20 attemtps. Even an exhausted Lane, who played nearly 31 minutes, struggled with his shot at times, making 8 of 21 attempts from the field and just one of seven three-pointers.

The closest the Thunder got was 61-53 with 3:39 to play when Lane made one of two free throws.

March 20, 2009
Rocklin battling from behind against Eisenhower at Arco

Rocklin is playing with a lot of heart in the D-II boys state championship game at Arco Arena.
The Thunder has rallied from a 15-point late third quarter deficit to climb to with eight, 61-53, with 3:39 to play after Brendan Lane made one of two free throws.

March 20, 2009
Rocklin having trouble keeping pace with lightning quick Eisenhower

Things are starting to look bleak for the Rocklin Thunder at the D-II boys state championship game at Arco Arena.
Eisenhower keeps attacking the basket and shooting threes and at one point late in the third quarter led 53-38. It's now 53-40 entering the fourth quarter.

March 20, 2009
Rocklin supporters show distain for referees calls at Arco

The boos are raining down at Arco Arena in the D-II boys state championship game.
The referees have called two consecutive offensive fouls on the Thunder, one on Brendan Lane and one on Cody Kale.
The Thunder is desperately trying to get inside against lightning quick Eisenhower, which holds a 40-30 lead with 3:59 to play.

March 20, 2009
Rocklin trails Eisenhower at halftime in front of 10,000 at Arco

Eisenhower outscored Rocklin nine to five near the end of the second quarter to take a 31-27 halftime lead in the CIF State Division II boys championship game at Arco Arena.

The Thunder has brought a huge crowd with them and there is believed to be more than 10,000 in the arena, althrough an official count is yet to be released.

It's been a matchup of Rocklin's size against Eiserhower's quickness. Rocklin won the battle early with four blocks but the Eagles fast-pace started to work to their advantage in the second quarter.

Creighton-bound senior point guard Andrew Bock, the Eagles leading scorer, has only three points but younger brother Bryan, a sophomore, has eight.

Anthony Romero has eight points for Rocklin and Brendan Lane seven points and a game-high six rebounds.

But the smaller Eagles hold an 18-15 advantage on the boards.

March 20, 2009
Rocklin and Eisenhower in a classic D-II state basketball battle

The atmosphere is electric right now at Arco Arena in front of a huge crowd between Rocklin and Eisenhower in the CIF state D-II boys championship game.

The Eagles from Rialto are lightning fast and doing what they do best: Run the floor and shoot threes.

Rocklin, which has led most of the way through the first half, has pounded it inside for baskets and is playing tough defense around the hoop. The Thunder already have blocked five Eisenhower shots.

It's 22-22 with 3:11 and Rocklin coming out of a timeout.

March 20, 2009
Brea Olinda girls D-II basketball victory is pretty in pink

Wearing her distinctive pink shoes, 5-2 senior point guard Jonae Ervin's poised leadership and quick thinking lifted Brea Olinda of Brea to a 68-45 win over Carondelet of Concord in the CIF state Division II girls championship game tonight at Arco Arena.

For the Ladycats (33-2), it was their record ninth state championship.

Ervin, who scored eight points, had five steals and three assists, wears the shoes in tribute to Kay Yow, the former North Carolina State coach who died of breast cancer in January. She will play next fall at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

While Ervin directed the offense, junior guard Kelsey Harris handled most of the scoring with a game-high 25 points.

Erica Payne led Carondelet (29-4), the NorCal champions from Concord, with 18 points and nine rebounds.

This was Brea Olinda's 11th state title appearance..

March 20, 2009
Rocklin fans are filling Arco in anticipation of a state championship

A sea of blue shirts is filling Arco Arena as fans prepare to root on the Rocklin High School boys basketball team in its quest to win the school's first CIF state basketball championship.

The Thunder will tip-off at 8 p.m. against Eisenhower of Rialto, one of only two teams this season to beat the 32-2 Thunder.

A number of those sitting in the student rooting section are sporting painted faces, have "Got State?" or "Rocklin 6th Man" T-shirts and are waving signs supporting the team or their favorite players.

Among them is a young man attired in blue, sports-themed pajamas with a tiny cowboy hat.

March 20, 2009
Rocklin may be last hope for NorCal on opening night of state hoops

It's looking like Northern California basketball fans will have to put their faith in the Rocklin boys basketball team tonight at Arco Arena in the Thunder's D-II CIF state title bout with Eisenhower of Rialto.

Southern California teams swept the D-V boys and girls championships and Brea Olinda, making its record 11th state title appearance, is ahead of Cardondelet of Concord 37-18 at halftime.

Cardondelet beat Oak Ridge 60-50 Saturday at Arco for the D-II NorCal title.

Earlier today, Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank beat Pinewood of Los Altos Hills 55-47 in the D-V girls final and Windward of Los Angeles downed St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda 69-53 in the D-V boys final.

March 20, 2009
Gupilan girls spark Burbank team to D-V girls state title victory

Senior guard Shelley Gupilan scored 22 points and cousin Margeaux Gupilan, a junior guard, added 13 points to lead Bellarmine-Jefferson of Burbank to a 55-47 win over Pinewood of Los Altos Hills in the California Interscholastic Federation D-V girls state basketball championship game Friday at Arco Arena.

It was the Southern California school's first state girls basketball title.

Pinewood (31-5), a three-time state champion, was making its fourth appearance in the finals but its usual strength proved its undoing.

A three-point shooting team, the Panthers made just six of 28 from that range and shot only 28 percent from the field for the game.

Senior forward Lindsay Nickel led Pinewood with 16 points and sophomore swing Hailie Eackles added 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

The Guards (34-1) are the first Southern California team to win the D-V girls division since La Jolla Country Day in 2002..

March 20, 2009
Denzel sighting at Arco (his son plays for D-V team)

He doesn't just go to Staples Center to root on the Lakers. When it comes to championship basketball, Denzel Washington is a fan, period, especially when his son is involved.

Mitch Stephens of Maxpreps spotted Washington in the Arco Arena seats and figured instead of just staring at the man like so many others in the place he would go say hello and talk hoops.

So he sat next to the actor for the last period of the Division V state championship game. Washington's interest was in the Windward team of Los Angeles, and his son, Malcolm Washington, the starting point guard who had six points and two assists in a solid showing to help key a 69-53 rout of St. Joseph's of Alameda.

Stephens said Washington the player is as steady as they come and that Washington the actor was every bit as gracious and friendly as he is in some of his movies - when he plays the good guy (remember, Denzel won the Academy Award for his role in Training Day, where he played one very bad dude).

Washington did tell Stephens that he is working on a movie in Mexico, and he made special arrangements to see this game, saying it was a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to see a child play in a championship game.

March 20, 2009
Athletic Windward blows out Pilots' lights in state title game

There would be no miracle this time.

Last week, St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda staged a 19-point rally in the final three minutes to stun three-time defending state champion Branson of Ross 42-40 for the California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Division V boys basketball championship at Folsom High School.

But on Friday at Arco Arena in the D-V state final, the Pilots (26-9) ran into a much stronger, more athletic Windward (29-6) of Los Angeles.

Led by UCLA-bound 6-foot-10 center Anthony Stover, 6-3 Michigan-bound guard Darius Morris and quick and powerful 6-5 sophomore forward Wesley Saunders, the Wildcats defeated St. Joseph 69-53.

Morris finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and five steals; Saunders had 21 points and three rebounds; and Stover 14 points, seven rebounds and six blocks.

Sophomores Jacari Whitfield, Dominic Lippi and Brendan Keane combined for 36 points for the Pilots.

Stover, a senior, played in last season's D-V state final for Renaissance Academy of La Canada, a 40-33 loser to Branson, before transferring to Windward and giving the Wildcats the final piece needed to challenge for its first state title.

Windward senior defensive whiz and co-captain Malcolm Washington, the son of actor Denzel Washington, contributed six points.

Windward, a school of 339 students located between Culver City and Santa Monica, prepared well for its run at state.

The Wildcats lost to Westchester of Los Angeles, Rocklin and Bishop Montgomery of Torrance, all state finalists, during the regular season.

March 20, 2009
Is it really D-5 any more on the boys side?

It was a Division V game by title only, but really, the elite programs even at the smallest level in this state are terrific.

Windward of Los Angeles beat St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda 69-53 today at Arco Arena in the D-V state title game. And wow, was that really a D-V outfit from LA?

Guard Darius Morris had a game-high 25 points and eight rebounds, and oh by the way, is off to Michigan on scholarship. Anthony Stover, a 6-foot-10 center, had six blocks and will next play for UCLA on scholarship.

Windward (29-6) lost to larger schools this season, including Rocklin 77-67 in a brutal early schedule.

St. Josephs, of course, is the school that graduated Jason Kidd in 1992, and he just happens to still be the most captivating prep player in state tournament history. Kidd helped the Pilots win back-to-back state D-I titles, when schools were allowed to move all the way up in division - and did for better competition.

The Pilots return most of their roster under superb coach Don Lippi next season, including son Dominic, who keyed St. Joseph's stunning late rally to topple three-time defending state champion Branson of Ross in the NorCal finals.

March 20, 2009
Prep games on TV tonight, including interesting Brea-Jesuit link

Tonight's Division II girls game between Carondelet of Concord and Brea Olinda (6 p.m.) will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet California, as will the D-II boys title game between Rocklin and Eisenhower of Rialto.

Carondelet beat Oak Ridge in the NorCal finals last Saturday at Arco Arena and Brea took out national No. 1 Mater Dei in the Souith and comes into Arco today as the new No. 1 team in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.

Brea seeks its ninth state title, tying the Ladycats with four other teams for the most in state history for any sport, including Jesuit in boys country, a prep juggernaut under coach Walt Lange.

Carondelet, the sister school to De La Salle, seeks its second state title since 2004.

Former Lakers broadcaster Paul Sutherland is the play-by-play voice and Caren Horstmeyer the color for these games.

Saturday's D-I girls game between Monte Vista of Danville and Long Beach Poly at 6 p.m., and the 8 pm. D-I boys tilt between defending champion McClymonds of Oakland and national No. 2 Westchester of Los Angeles will be shown live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

March 20, 2009
Ten great state basketball moments and highlights

A look at 10 moments, upsets, teams or players that have made the CIF State Championships the state's premiere event:

Miller time, 1982 - Cheryl Miller won't deny it. She very well might be the greatest woman's player of them all. As the cornerstone for Riverside Poly, she had no peers, and she helped boost the girls game in general in nearly matching Los Gatos point-for-point in the Division I final. Miller had 41in a 77-44 rout.

More than 11,000 filed into the Oakland Coliseum to watch, marking the only time a girls large-school final outdrew the boys. Mark Tennis of Cal-Hi Sports and ESPNRISE said Miller remains the tournament's most captivating girls player.

Folsom fury, 1985 - Although Folsom lost in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals to eventual champion Bret Harte, the Bulldogs were awarded an at-large berth in the NorCal tournament, then took off from there, beating Bret Harte in the NorCal finals on a late layup by Greg Stopp.

Folsom belted Avenal 68-57 for the Sacramento-area's first state title, in Oakland, as Ed Pelzman went for a career-best 19 points and star center Mike Doyle had 12 points and 19 rebounds for coach Stan Harms, who said he still thinks of that title team, "just about every day because it's so hard to do, almost impossible."

Twin terrors, 1989 - A year after leading Grant to a D-II title triumph over Palos Verdes and what the Guinness Book of World Records listed as the tallest female twins in the word in 6-foot-4 pillars Heidi and Heather Burge, the Pacers repeated behind their slashing and dashing twins Tina and Tesia Green, downing Katella High 59-43 cq in Oakland.

All of this behind a fiery coach - Connie Zuercher - beloved by her players, yet viewed by some in the Del Paso Heights community as the wrong fit.

Murray magic, 1989 - Before too long, it became comical. Glendora's Tracy Murray was on a scoring binge in the D-II final against Menlo, and at one point the scoreboard operator put up "Murray 45, Menlo 43."

In the end, the 6-5 Murray finished with a record 64 points on a variety of bombs, drives and dunks, though Menlo prevailed 89-83.

Hillgal pride, 1990 - Jim Mallery was a private investigator who loved to wear a green jacket - think The Masters - when he coached. Two years after Placer went 2-25, the Hillgals pulled one of the monster upsets in state history, bouncing national No. 2 Brea Olinda and its 55-game winning streak, 54-43 in the D-III game behind Caree Anderson, Carla Souza, Trina Haddock and Christa Gannon.

Before the game, Brea players asked Placer player what exactly a "Hillgal" was.
Answer: A winner.

Kidd stuff, 1992 - Wherever he went, Jason Kidd drew a crowd, and the most captivating player in state tournament history didn't disappoint in his final stop, at Arco Arena. The 6-5 ball-handling whiz from St. Joseph's of Alameda had 28 points in a 59-37 thumping of state-ranked No. 1 Mater Dei in the D-I final. Kidd's impact was paramount in keeping the state finals at Arco.

Eagles perfection, 1994 - The El Camino girls capped the best single-season run in regional history - boys or girls - by walloping state-ranked No. 1 Woodbridge of Irvine 71-38 behind anchors Emily Hart and Kristin Niemann and frantic coach Bill Baxter. Woodbridge came in 34-0 and El Camino exited 36-0.

So proud of their daughter's achievement, El Camino parents vowed to sprint through the Arden Fair Mall in school-color green skivvies. Nerves - and the prospect of community service - intervened, however.

Half court prayers, 1995 - Ripon Christian - and everyone planted in the Oakland Coliseum seats - figured it'd take a miracle for El Cajon Christian to win it. Two free throws with two seconds left provided a one-point Ripon Christian lead in the D-V finals, and then Stephanie Shadwell took over.

She took the inbounds pass and heaved a half-court shot that dropped for a 49-47 stunner, still the most memorable buzzer beater in state finals history.

Hibbs' heroes, 2003 - Nine years after winning his first state title with Foothill, Drew Hibbs did it again with the Mustangs, this time downing Harvard-Westlake 66-62 in the D-III finals at Arco.

All-Metro guards Sam Kirby and Chris Walker went for 22 and 15 points cq, respectively, and the school still takes pride in being the only regional boys team to win two banners, regardless of division.

Upstarts at Oak Ridge, 2005 - One of the most underrated champions in state history got the final say, going from a No. 3 NorCal seed in D-II to pounding national No. 3 Mater Dei 60-44 in the D-II final at Arco. Steve Scott's team was led by seniors Ryan Moya and Hiram Thompson and junior Ryan Anderson, now with the New Jersey Nets.

March 18, 2009
And why we pick Rocklin over Eisenhower in state D-II

Rocklin rejoices at midcourt after this one, because it's become something of a routine for the Thunder at Arco Arena.

In successive weekends, coach Steve Taylor's bunch secured section and NorCal D-II titles on the Kings floor, proof that championship ball does indeed exist in this NBA setting. Fairfield was more athletic in the section game, but Rocklin was more poised and cohesive. St. Francis was quicker to the ball at some points in the NorCal tilt and came from a stronger league, but Rocklin was more balanced and more determined.

What's more, Fairfield represented a chance at redemption for Rocklin, as it was the Falcons who eliminated the Thunder in the NorCal semifinals a year ago on a wild, bank-shot 30-footer at the buzzer.

Now here comes Eisenhower, the last team to down the Thunder. How good is this? The last standing regional team prevails because it's their time. Brendan Lane will refuse to get bullied inside. Pat Stover will inflict his will. Mads Frandsen will gobble up rebounds and snarl when he isn't smiling. Anthony Romero, Jackson Cummings, Cody Kale, Tony Williams and Zack Moss will off-set Eisenhower's speed and burst, and they will outnumber Andrew Brock, the superb Eisenhower guard. And there's no way Eisenhower makes 14 three-pointers like it did last time against Rocklin. For an added boost: The Rocklin student body will make the place bounce.

March 18, 2009
Mitch Stephens of Maxpreps: Why Eisenhower beats Rocklin

Never mind my mug at the bottom here, this post is provided by Mitch Stephens, a senior writer/columnist for and as good a prep insider as there is in the country. My good friend covered the first Rocklin-Eisenhower meeting in a December tournament down south, and I suspect fatigue - not logic - has made the man weary enough to go against a virtual home team in Rocklin at Arco Arena in the rematch, this time to decide the state Division II championship.

Here is Mitch's reasoning logic for Eisenhower:

Andrew Bock. That's reason No. 1 reason why Eisenhower beats Rocklin and that's where it stops.

I love Rocklin's bigs, I love their guards and the way Steve Taylor pushes them up and down the court. I love Pat Stover's crazy don't-mess-with-me eyes.

But Andrew Bock - he controls everything. He's the keys to the ignition. The remote to the tele. The brush to The Monet.

He'll control it all - slasher, passer and 3-point bomber - just like he did in the first meeting, a 77-66 Eisenhower win when he went for 25.

March 17, 2009
Ponderosa saw the light in last half of basketball season finale

Ponderosa boys basketball coach Dave Millhollin said the lights went out on his team's season in more ways than one Feb. 27 at Fairfield.

Ponderosa lost to the Falcons 69-46 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II quarterfinals.
But Millhollin expects the players, coaches and fans affiliated with that game to have a lifetime memory of that experience.

Early in the third quarter, the lights went out in the Fairfield gym after Millhollin said a car collided with a light pole not far from the school.

"It was pitch black," Millhollin said. "But everyone stayed there."

After nearly an hour, it was agreed to move the game to Rodriguez High School.

Millhollin said most of the crowd hopped in cars and followed the team the 10 miles across town.

Although Ponderosa lost, Millhollin was proud that his team played the Falcons even in the final two quarters at Rodriguez after a horrendous first-half start at Fairfield.

"We went toe-to-toe in the second half, so that took a lot of sting off the first half where we came out like deer in the headlights," Millhollin said. "I think both teams felt good about how it ended. It seemed like the right thing was done, although it was a weird way to end the season."

March 17, 2009
Playing for state title is hair-raising experience for Rocklin coach

If Rocklin High boys basketball coach Steve Taylor is looking a little scruffy these days, he's got a good excuse.

Rocklin (32-2), which will play Eisenhower of Rialto in the CIF State Division II championship game Friday night at Arco Arena, has won 22 straight games.

In fact, the Thunder's last loss was to Eisenhower on Dec. 27 in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in San Diego.

That is around the last time Taylor paid a visit to the barber.

"I told my wife I'm not cutting my hair until next Sunday," Taylor said after the Thunder beat St. Francis of Mountain View 70-65 for the CIF NorCal title Saturday at Arco. "I told her, 'Ever hear of Samson and Delilah?' All coaches are superstitious this time of year."

On Saturday, Taylor continued to wear one of his lucky ties that bears the photo images of his two children - Nick and Ashley.

The last time he failed to wear that tie, the Thunder lost to Fairfield in the 2008 NorCal semifinals.

March 16, 2009
Sac High had no answer for Sacred Heart's 'bigs' in NorCal final

Through extraordinary guard play, Sacramento High School was able to hide an area of vulnerbility - at least until the CIF Northern California Division III boys championship Saturday at Arco Arena.

The Dragons' inexperience inside the key was exposed in a big way by Sacred Heart Cathedral's 6-foot-5, 235-pound senior center Kevin Greene, a USC football recruit. He scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Irish's 77-65 win.

"Their bigs really beat us up a lot," said Sac High coach Derek Swafford.

Greene, 6-5 Fresno State-bound Jerry Brown and 6-4 junior Jamal Ford all were effective near the basket against Sacramento's interior group of Robert Garrett, Will Davis and Alonzo Brown. The Dragons trio combined for nine points and nine rebounds.

"We've struggled with our rebounding this year," said senior captain Chase Tapley. "Our guys played hard, but they are young."

It didn't help that Greene was a man on a mission. Last year against Sac seniors Bobby Evans and Kyle Allen, Greene was held to six points and eight rebounds in Sacred Heart Cathedral's 65-49 loss. The two Dragons combined for 25 points and 22 rebounds.

"No way were we going to come out here and let last year happen again," Greene said.

The 6-10 Garrett is only a sophomore and the 6-8 Davis is a junior.

"In another year they're going to be hard to deal with," Tapley said.

March 14, 2009
Other scores of note ...

SoCal D-II girls: Brea Olinda knocked off national No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana 44-38 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. The Wildcats will play Carondelet of Concord this Friday at 6 p.m. at Arco Arena for the girls D-II championship.

SoCal D-III boys: Second seeded Ocean View of Huntington Beach downed top-seeded Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood in the D-III boys SoCal championship earlier this afternoon at Pauley Pavilion. Mason Jones had 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting for Ocean View while teammate Anthony Brown scored 19. The Seahawks will face Sacred Heart of San Francisco next Saturday at 2:45 p.m. for the D-III state championship.

NorCal D-V girls: Pinewood outscored Branson of Ross 15-4 in the final quarter to score an upset over the top seed and move on to the state championship game. Pinewood will play Bell-Jeff of Burbank this Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Arco Arena for the D-V girls state title.

March 14, 2009
Oak Ridge's Kaleigh Durket accomplished, skilled

At a time when some die-hard high school sports fans are lamenting the downfall of the multi-sport student-athlete, several terrific examples are on display at Arco Arena throughout Saturday.

My colleague Joe Davidson mentioned two such football/basketball crossover studs in Sacred Heart Cathedral's Kevin Greene Monte Vista's Zach Ertz earlier in the day.

But perhaps the most accomplished and best all-around athlete on display at Arco today is Kaleigh Durket.

Durket, a key reserve for the top-seeded Trojans girls hoopsters, is more renowned for her fall exploits as she led Oak Ridge to its third D-II section volleyball title, the Sierra Foothill League's Co-MVP award and a Bee first-team All-Metro selection.

Her stellar play for the last three seasons for Oak Ridge's volleyball team earned her a Division I scholarship to Colgate (N.Y.) University and with that in hand she said, she wanted to return to another lifelong passion.

"You just have to love sports," said Durket of giving up nearly all of her free time to extra-curriculars. "I've loved both (basketball and volleyball) all my life."

During the winter, she has balanced club volleyball practice with NCVC's top team, 18-1 Moxie, with hoops at Oak Ridge. That team has Junior Olympics aspirations for later in the summer as it features a "Who's who" of local volleyball talent.

Against Carondelet, Durket played key minutes, provided solid defense, a pair of brick-wall screens and a scored basket in the Trojans' loss to Carondelet in the D-II girls NorCal championship game.

March 14, 2009
Sara James of Oak Ridge a terrific talent

And she's only a junior.

That's what you find yourself muttering watching Sara James, the Oak Ridge junior already high on the priority list for a number of college programs who covet her services.

She can handle the ball, break down pressure defense, run the floor, shoot three-pointers, rebound and defend. James has top-seeded Oak Ridge ahead of No. 2 Carondolet of Concord 29-24 at the half in the Northern California Division II championship game here at Arco Arena.

She has scored 17 points, and she has colleges watching her every move, including every Pacific-10 Conference program. Cal, UCLA and USC have already offered her a full scholarship. Bee staffer Quwan Spears tells me that Stanford generally asks recruits to apply first, and if accepted, she would likely get an offer there, too.

In short, she's a terrific talent, with a year to go. And imagine this: Chelsea Gray of St. Mary's-Stockton running the break with James on the wing, at Stanford or some other Pac-10 school.

Gray leads the Rams in tonight's D-III title tilt against Sacred Heart Cathedral.

March 14, 2009
So far, matchup of national recruits going Sara James' way

The NBA's King James played in this arena about 14 hours ago, but Saturday belongs to Oak Ridge's Queen James, as the Trojans' budding superstar junior Sara James is seemingly everywhere in this D-II girls NorCal semifinal.

A highly-anticipated match-up of James, an all-around scorer, and Carondelet junior Ricki Radanovich, a three-point sharpshooter, is going all James' way.

James when one-on-one with Radanovich has shut her down, while scoring 17 points of her own, pulling down 10 rebounds and swatting two shots.

Radanovich has just two points, coming on free-throws.

Both will very likely be signing Div. I Letters of Intent next February

March 14, 2009
Tapley bows out in style as an all-time Sac High great

We saw the last of Chase Tapley in a Sacramento High School uniform, and that's a shame, too, because he put on quite a show in the state Division III finals a year ago.

Tapley bowed out with his gritty teammates in today's D-III Northern California championship at Arco Arena to Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Irish of San Francisco had fresher legs down the stretch, at about the time Tapley had nothing left after slicing, slithering and jump-shooting his way to 27 points from his point guard spot. Sacred Heart won 77-65.

When Tapley exited the game with a moment to play, he made it a long, deliberate walk down the bench, trying to soak up the moment. He may never play in an NBA arena again, though he certainly seems to have the ability to be a fine college player at San Diego State, where Dragons coach Derek Swafford said today coach Steve Fisher said he "got a steal in Tapley."

Swafford, a no-nonsense sort, said he could not fault his team's effort here. They competed and fell to a better team. And he said he will miss Tapley. The jokes, the smiles, the effort, the talent.

"Oh no doubt," the coach said.

The Bee's Player of the Year a year ago, Tapley surely goes down as an all-time Sac High great. A look at some of those alums over the decades:

* Charley Walker, a three-time All-City performer from the late 1950s who also played at McClatchy.
* Chris McMurray, a forward who averaged 19 points and 19 rebounds in 1969.
* Kevin Johnson, who led the state in scoring at 33 points a game in 1983.
* Raymond White, a guard whose versatility helped lead the Dragons back to respectability in the early 1990s.
* Richard Johnson, a great shooter who teamed with White for those bounce-back Sac teams.
* Anthony Lambert, a smooth and fun-to-watch guard who was The Bee's Player of the Year in 1994.
* Rupert McClendon, a forward who keyed Sacramento's only Division I section title, in 1996, in a rout of Jesuit.

March 14, 2009
Mayor Johnson on hand at Arco to cheer on alma mater Sac High

Mayor and Sacramento High School alumnus Kevin Johnson had a front row seat Saturday to watch his Dragons fall just short of their second straight D-III NorCal title.

"I'm proud of the guys and how they played," Johnson said. "They play the game how it's supposed to be played."

Johnson also watched Sac High defeat Sacred Heart last year in the NorCal final, shortly after launching his mayoral campaign.

On Saturday Johnson gave congratulatory handshakes for a terrific season to all the Dragons players in the tunnel as they exited the floor.

The last two trips to Arco have been a treat for Johnson, who starred at point guard for the Dragons in the early 1980s and later at Cal and for the Phoenix Suns, as he only reached as far as the Sac-Joaquin Section finals in his tenure with the team.

"I only wish those teams were as good as the ones I've seen the last two years," the former NBA All-Star said.

March 14, 2009
Sacred Heart avenges 2008 NorCal defeat with win over Sac High

Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco avenged a NorCal championship game loss to Sacramento High School from a year ago as the Irish beat the Dragons 77-65 on Saturday.

The Irish advance to the D-III state championship this Friday at 2:45 p.m. at Arco Arena and will play either Ocean View of Huntington Beach or Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood.

After pulling to within four points at 68-64 early in the fourth quarter, the Dragons went cold down the stretch, failing to score for nearly six minutes of game time until Khalil Ray hit a free-throw with 14.3 remaining, while the Irish continued to hit lay-ups and go to the foul line.

Chase Tapley led all scorers with 27 points while Irish center Kevin Greene led Sacred Heart with 22.

Both teams got out to hot starts and combined for five threes in the first while Sac High shot just under 70 percent from the field, compared with Sacred Heart's 55.

The Irish led 26-25 after one, and exploded on an 11-0 run to open the second. Sacred Heart led the Dragons by 12 with 5:11 left in the half, but Sacramento staged a run of its own, to pull to within two points at 42-40 on a Tapley lay-in with 10 seconds remaining. Dragon forward Will Davis kept it that close with an emphatic block as time expired.

March 14, 2009
Two football studs - USC and Stanford recruits - at Arco

The best football player in high tops today?

Two of them, and they battle in the trenches in the fall and throw their muscle and might around in basketball. And they may run into each other in college someday in the Pacific-10 Conference as highly regarded recruits.

Kevin Green of Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco is a stout and sturdy inside presence for the Irish. He runs the floor, snatches up rebounds and displays the sort of up-and-down the floor skills that will surely make him a nice defensive end prospect for USC, where he is headed via scholarship.

He is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds of fury with touch, as he scored 22 points and had 15 rebounds in Sacred Heart's 77-65 Division III triumph of Sacramento

"Awesome kid," San Francisco Chronicle prep beat writer Will McCulloch said.

In tonight's D-I title game, Monte Vista of Danville has Zach Ertz patrolling the middle. He is a tight end recruit off to Stanford, and he delivered some crushing screens against Folsom in a 19-point semi-final victory, in addition to steady inside scoring.

He's 6-5 as well and solid as an old Buick.

And one thing about title teams. They tend to have a football banger inside to balance the skill guys.

March 14, 2009
Kennedy girls, Sac boys have 3 total students on hand at Arco

Did someone forget to pass out the memo?

Or hand out today's paper?

Two area teams played for Northern California championships today in the early contests at Arco Arena and you could count the teenagers texting on one hand. Part of the fun for the high school teams playing at Arco is drawing off the energy of the student body.

The Kennedy girls had a following a week ago for the Sac-Joaquin Section finals at Arco, but in the NorCal finals, a game a bit more important, there were only a few who on hand. That the game was a 10 a.m. start is one thing.

But still, get up, people. Support the product. Someone fire up a rooter bus and collect the weary students.

Monte Vista won the Division I title game 42-25, backed by about six students who made the drive from Danville (then again, the Monte Vista boys are in tonight's late D-I title clash with McClymonds, so expect more students there).

The game had about as much atmosphere as a rec game at the local community center.

In the noon game pitting the Sacramento boys against Sacred Heart Cathedral in the D-III finals, same thing. A few bored Sacred Heart students made the drive from San Francisco. We spotted scant few who made the long drive from Sac High.

Economics? Apathy? A bit of both?

March 14, 2009
Kevin Johnson - the Mayor - looks like he could still score 35

Looking fit and in good spirits - hey, repeat appearances on Larry King Live will do that for a man - there was a Kevin Johnson sighting.

The Sacramento mayor is the most famous basketball alum to come out of Sacramento High (and if not for Bill Cartwright, pride of Elk Grove High, he very well might be the face of all prep hoops over the decades).

Johnson was on hand at Arco Arena to watch the Dragons in their NorCal Division III rematch against Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco. Johnson has been a regular at Sac High games, and he talks hoops and education regularly with Dragons coach Derek Swafford.

Johnson raved last year about how good it was for Sacramento High, Oak Park and Sacramento in general to have the Dragons succeed in athletics. This includes becoming the first Sacramento City Unified School District boys team to win a NorCal title.

In his day, no one was better than Johnson. He led the state in scoring as a Sac High senior in 1983 with nearly 33 a game (he was also a terrific baseball player) and led the Dragons to the large-school section finals.

How long ago? Arco wasn't around as the Kings were still in Kansas City and the sections and state were not classified as Divisions I, II, III or so forth. They went by Class A, AA, AAA.

March 14, 2009
Sacred Heart leads Sac High after exciting first half

Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco leads Sacramento 42-40 at halftime of the D-III boys NorCal Championship game.

Chase Tapley of the Dragons had 10 of his 14 first-half points in the first quarter. Both teams combined for five threes in the first while Sac High shot just under 70 percent from the field, compared with Sacred Heart's 55. Both teams are right at the 46 percent mark from the field at the half.

The Irish led 26-25 after one, and exploded on an 11-0 run to open the second. Sacred Heart led the Dragons by 12 with 5:11 left in the half, but Sacramento staged a run of its own, to pull to within two points on a Tapley lay-in with 10 seconds remaining. Dragon forward Will Davis kept it that close with an emphatic block as time expired.

This game is a rematch of last year's NorCal final, which Sacramento won 66-49.

March 14, 2009
Despite the weather outside, it's raining inside Arco

Saturday's forecast for greater Sacramento calls for sunshine with some clouds, but the crowd for the D-III boys NorCal championship game could probably use some umbrellas.

That's because Sac High and Sacred Heart of San Francisco are making it rain.

Sacred Heart leads the Dragons 26-25 after one quarter in a rematch of the 2008 NorCal championship, which Sac High won 66-49. Both teams combined for five threes in the first quarter, and both teams are shooting well over 50 percent from the field.

Sacramento guard Chase Tapley already has 10 points to lead all scorers.

This game as well as all contests at Arco today can be heard via the Internet at

March 14, 2009
D-I girls: Monte Vista prevails over Kennedy

Top-seeded Monte Vista of Danville claimed its first NorCal championship on Saturday morning with a 42-25 victory over second-seeded Kennedy.

Mustangs forward Niveen Rasheed led all scorers with with 12 points, while Kennedy forward Shanice Butler led the Cougars with 10.

The game was tied at eight after one quarter, but the Mustangs, powered by Dani Rabago's 10 first-half points, outscored Kennedy 12-6 in the second to take a 20-14 lead into halftime and never looked back.

Monte Vista will face the SoCal regional champion -- either Colony of Ontario or Long Beach Poly -- next Saturday at 6 p.m. for the State title, back at Arco Arena.

March 14, 2009
Arco court gets makeover at halftime of first game

Tip-off of the first of six CIF Northern California Regional championship games at Arco Arena was at 10 a.m. Saturday, a little over 12 hours from the conclusion of Friday Night's overtime tilt between the arena's main denizen, the Kings, and the Cavaliers.

With such little rest, understandably, the Arco court wasn't looking her best.

At halftime of the Division I girls championship between Kennedy and Monte Vista of Danville, two teams of four Arco operations personnel applied two decals sporting the state CIF logo. The decals, circular and roughly three feet in diameter, work much like something you'd see on the inner side of a car or house window. One side of wax paper was removed, the decals were set and and then smoothed over with a plastic edge to eliminate air bubbles.

The process took about six minutes and was completed just as both teams emerged from their locker rooms for second half

March 14, 2009
Monte Vista leads Kennedy at half of D-I girls NorCal final

The offensive fireworks remained in bed with, apparently, most of the student body for either school.

This morning's Northern California Division I girls championship game between Kennedy of Sacramento and Monte Vista of Danville was a slug fest. The top-seeded Mustangs lead at the half 20-14, due in large part to the versatility of senior forward Niveen Rasheed, a 6-footer headed to Princeton.

It was 1-0 Kennedy with 3:41 to go in the first quarter before Rasheed scored inside. Kennedy seeks its second NorCal title since 2002 and Monte Vista its first. Monte Vista last played for the NorCal in 1997, losing to Berkeley.

March 13, 2009
Sperbeck to scholar/athletes: 'Don't let college football ruin you'

He kept it short, sweet and self-deprecating, but Sacramento State football coach Marshall Sperbeck passed along some sage insights to 28 of the Sac-Joaquin Section's top high school football scholar/athletes on Wednesday night.

Sperbeck was the keynote speaker for the The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Sacramento Valley Chapter's annual dinner at the Radisson Hotel.

It's a first-class affair, with high school and college honorees looking sharp in tuxedos.

Since many of those being honored plan to play in college, Sperbeck said it's important they realize they are going to have to re-establish themselves.

"You are no longer going to be the super star," Sperbeck said.

But by having "passion for what you do" success will follow.

"As a football player, don't let the college football game ruin you from the standpoint of being a business and letting football use you to where it consumes you," he said. "Play the game like you are 12 years old, because that's when it is the most fun. Love it and play it for the reasons you chose, not for your parents, not for the crowd, not for the scholarship."

Sperbeck, a standout quarterback at Valley High School who played at Nevada, said he was humbled being in the presence of such academically successful students.

"I go back to a recent conversation I had with my daughter who is a sophomore in high school," Sperbeck said. "She had just received her report card and looking it over, she had a 4.0 for the semester.

"She turned to me and said, 'Dad, did you ever have a 4.0?' I said my senior year I did. I had a 2.0 my first semester and a 2.0 my second semester. So that's my 4.0."

Sperbeck also took time to acknowledge foundation chapter president Rowland "Red" Smith for his 35 years of contributions to area football. The former Jesuit coach, now retired, moved Thursday to Tacoma, Wash.

"He's had a great influence on high school football in Sacramento," Sperbeck said.

Jordan Enos, a center from Lincoln High School with a 4.0 grade-point average, gave an inspirational speech on behalf of his fellow honorees, thanking coaches and parents who spend so much time guiding and teaching them.

"We're privileged to play the best game in the world," said Enos, who will play at Holy Cross University in the fall.

The chapter also honored the Grant football team for winning the CIF State Bowl Open Division championship; presented coaches awards to Whitney's Mike Gimenez and Merced's Rob Scheidt and the "Distinguished American Award" to Andy Beal, the founder of Max Preps sports.

Among high school athletes honored were Casa Roble's Tristan Baer, Jaycob Shoemaker and Tyler Kenobbie; Bear River's Garrett Barbic; Pleasant Grove's Brian Beebe; Burbank's Lucky Dozier and Miles Freeman; Rio Americano's Travis Haugen and Chad Tannenbaum; Sheldon's Aaron Howse; and Grant's Alesana Leban and Jeremiah Toma.

Also honored were Monterey Trail's Chris Lee; Colfax's Spencer Lewis; Del Oro's Mason Magleby; Roseville's Mike Moreno, Andrew Pangburn and Richard Wruble; Laguna Creek's Sean Nill; Oakmont's Scott Schwieger; Granite Bay's Corey Vanderbeek; Nevada Union's Cole Stanford and Rio Linda's Jacob Wrobel; St. Mary's of Stockton's Nicholas Alonzo and Jordan Carl; Escalon's Thomas Martin; and Lincoln's Michael Spanos.

College athletes recognized were Jonathan Compas of UC Davis, Juan Gamboa of Sacramento State, Jay Reddic of American River College, Brian Crew of Sacramento City College and Joseph Jacinto of Sierra College.

Former TV newscaster Kelly Brothers served as master of ceremonies and retired Catholic Bishop Francis Quinn livened up the night, eliciting much laughter from the audience, for his humorous and cleverly crafted invocation and benediction.

March 13, 2009
Kennedy girls have enjoyed a decade of basketball excellence

Kennedy, once renowned for its boys basketball program, has evolved into a girls hoops power during this decade.

Frenetic defense and good outside shooting have been the hallmarks. So has consistently excellent coaching from a close-knit bunch.

The program has won Sac-Joaquin Section Division I titles in 2001 and 2002 and 2008 and 2009. The Cougars were section runners-up in 2003 and 2007 and semifinalists in 2004 and 2006.

The 2001 team reached the state finals, becoming the first Sacramento City Unified School District program to do so.

Steve Matsuura and Jody Hashigami first led the team, then Hashigami and childhood friend Brandon Yung, before Yung eventually ventured out on his own five seasons ago.

In the last four years, Kennedy has a combined record of 106 wins and 24 losses.

"When we have free time, Steve, Jody and I will talk basketball," Yung said, glancing at the two from across the gym after Tuesday night's 60-48 quarterfinal win over Lowell of San Francisco.

After beating visiting Deer Valley 48-44 in overtime on Thursday, the Cougars are in the NorCal D-I title game for the second straight season.

Last season, the Cougars fell to Berkeley High.

At 10 a.m. Saturday at Arco Arena, the second-seeded Cougars (27-7) will take on top-seeded Monte Vista of Danville (28-2) for the title.

And the Cougars just might have a chance because they don't have to live only by their outside shooting game this season.

They have nice post presence in 5-11 junior Shanice Butler to complement 5-10 senior star Melody Khlok.

Butler, academically ineligible last season, had a season-high 21 points against Lowell, then scored 12 against a tall Deer Valley team on Thursday. Khlok had 15 against Lowell and 13 against Deer Valley.

"Having Shanice has been huge because in the games we lost last year, we didn't have that big kid," Yung said. "She adds some presence both offensively and defensively."

Butler, who would like to play for a major-college program on scholarship, knows that the postseason is a time to catch recruiters' eyes.

"These games are very important," Butler said. "But I'm just doing what I can for the team because I want to make up for not being here last year. I'm just trying to give my all."

Added Yung: "For her to execute when the stage is the biggest is important for her whether it's exposure or getting the experience in this type of environment. It helps speed up the learning process so that it's nothing new."

Butler and Khlok add to what has been a balanced attack - Khlok is the team's only double-figure scorer - that also features seniors Deja Kinsey and Kristen Shimizu and juniors Cydni Matsuoka and Leslie Leong.

Although Yung says Kennedy isn't "the most physically imposing team," he thinks the Cougars have a chance of reaching the state final.

"The kids understand what it takes as far as the level of effort and the level of intensity," Yung said. "We like our chances against anybody."

Yung, who played for coach Spider Thomas and the section champion Kennedy boys teams of 1990 and 1991, said it was key to get two home playoff games.

The Cougars have lost just three games over the last two seasons at home.

"We definitely have taken ownership of our home court," Yung said.

Now, it's on to Arco, which has been like a second home for the Cougars.

March 12, 2009
Sophomore returns to help Sac High boys to NorCal title game

Sacramento got a huge lift in the CIF Northern California Division III Regional boys basketball semifinals tonight against visiting Analy of Sebastapol.
Sophomore Josiah Turner, who initially was expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken right hand, returned to score 13 points as the Dragons downed the Tigers 61-41 to cruise into Saturday's D-III championship game.
Senior Chase Tapley had 25 points and junior Travon Abraham 14 for Sac.
The 6-foot-3 Turner had injured his hand early in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-III playoff opener Feb. 25 and missed the Dragons' last four playoff games.
Second-seeded Sacramento (26-6), winners of last year's NorCal title, will play top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco (27-4) noon Saturday at Arco Arena. Sacred Heart defeated Enterprise of Redding 78-42 tonight.

March 10, 2009
Girls NorCal results, schedule and comments

A look at the girls NorCal playoff results, upcoming schedules (and some comments)

Division I

No. 1 Monte Vista 53, No. 8 Sheldon 26
No. 4 Lincoln 66, No. 5 Castlemont 51
No. 2 Kennedy 60, No. 10 Lowell 48
No. 6 Deer Valley 42, No. 3 San Benito 33

Thursday's semifinals

Lincoln (28-4) at Monte Vista (27-2)
Deer Valley (23-7) at Kennedy (26-7)

Saturday's championship at Arco Arena: 10 a.m.

* Should be a showdown between the top seeds, and you just know Kennedy is hungry to take home the program's second such banner since 2002.

Division II

No. 1 Oak Ridge 57, No. 8 Northgate 45
No. 3 Mitty 82, No. 6 Valley 41
No. 2 Carondolet 72, No. 7 Chico 48

Thursday's semifinals

Gunn (29-1) at Oak Ridge (29-3)
Mitty (22-8) at Carondelet (27-3)

Saturday's championship at Arco Arena: 2 p.m.

* Oak Ridge has a golden opportunity to win again at home and get right back to Arco and win the program's first NorCal title (the boys won the 2005 state title and still hold campus bragging rights all these years later).

Division III

No. 1 Sacred Heart Cathedral 70, No. 8 Dublin 44
No. 5 Sacramento 73, No. 4 Paradise 42
No. 3 Bishop O'Dowd 56, No. 6 St. Ignatius 35
No. 2 St. Mary's 84, No. 7 Enterprise 47

Thursday's semifinals

Sacramento (23-9) at Sacred Heart (27-1)
Bishop O'Dowd (28-2) at St. Mary's (28-3)

Saturday's championship at Arco Arena: 6 p.m.

Sacramento draws the defending USA Today national champion, a monstrous task to be sure. If it can survive that, it could be a rematch with St. Mary's at Arco.

Division IV

No. 1 St. Mary's-Berkeley 59, No. 8 Mercy 44
No. 5 Linden 45, No. 4 Corning 35
No. 6 Marin Catholic 57, No. 3 Santa Cruz 31
No. 2 Modesto Christian 73, No. 7 Central Valley 48

Thursday's semifinals

Linden (25-7) at St. Mary's (28-4)
Marin Catholic (25-6) at Modesto Christian (25-7)

Saturday's championship at Folsom High School: 5 p.m.

Division V

No. 1 Branson 49, No. 8 Wilton Christian 22
No. 5 Castilleja 51, No. 4 Durham 33
No. 3 Bradshaw Christian 62, No. 6 Urban 53
No. 2 Pinewood 72, No. 7 Hamilton City 47

Thursday's semifinals

Castilleja (23-8) at Branson (29-3)
Bradshaw Christian (28-4) at Pinewood (29-4)

Saturday's championship at Folsom High School: 1 p.m.

* Bradshaw is in new territory here, and it plays a Pinewood team that has been down this road many times before.

March 10, 2009
NorCal boys results, schedule and comments

A look at the NorCal playoff results for all divisions, upcoming schedule (and comments)

Division I

No. 1 McClymonds 65, No. 8 Franklin-Elk Grove 53
No. 6 Newark Memorial 52, No. 4 Bellarmine 51
No. 2 Monte Vista 61, No. 5 Lowell 33
No. 3 Folsom 88, No. 7 Skyline 74

Thursday's semifinals

Folsom (31-1) at Monte Vista (27-3)
Newark Memorial (27-5) at McClymonds (27-1)

Saturday's championship at Arco Arena: 8 p.m.

* Franklin was right there with the top seed and defending state champion, and that's saying something considering the Wildcats played on Monday and had to travel. It wasn't until a big fourth period run by "Mack" that the Oakland school prevailed. Amir Carraway scored 20 for Franklin, which had its best season in the school's 7-year history, a credit to leaders such as Ryan Sypkens and coach Jesse Formaker.

Meanwhile, Folsom looked tremendous in taking out a very athletic Skyline team, and Monte Vista looks defensive and dangerous, making for quite the intriguing semifinal showdown. Monte Vista is the only team to beat Folsom this season, 28 games ago.

Division II

No. 1 St. Francis 74, No. 8 Northgate 56
No. 5 Fairfield 56, No. 4 Chico 53
No. 3 Hayward 78, No. 6 Mitty 51
No. 2 Rocklin 72, No. 7 Pleasant Valley 53

Thursday's semifinals

Fairfield (25-7) at St. Francis (29-2)
Hayward (21-8) at Rocklin (30-2)

Saturday's championship at Arco Arena: 4 p.m.

* No surprises here as it appears to be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown looming, though a year ago, No. 2 Fairfield stunned the top seed (Rocklin) and here's a near repeat.

Division III

No. 1 Sacred Heart Cathedral 86, No. 8 Del Oro 63
No. 4 Enterprise 52, No. 5 Miramonte 51
No. 2 Sacramento 74, No. 7 West Valley 32

Thursday's semifinals

Analy (27-6) at Sacramento (26-6)
Enterprise (21-9) at Sacred Heart Cathedral (25-4)

Saturday's championship at Arco Arena: 2:45 p.m.

* No surprises here as the top two seeds are headed for a showdown. Poor West Valley never saw the buzz saw in the form of these Dragons. Sacramento aims to defend its NorCal title.

Division IV

No. 1 Salesian 65, No. 8 Christian Brothers 47
No. 4 Sutter 55, No. 5 Sacred Heart Prep 49
No. 6 St. Mary's-Berkeley 60, No. 3 Menlo 45
No. 2 Modesto Christian 81, No. 7 Corning 44.

Thursday's semifinals

Sutter (23-5) at Salesian (28-4)
St. Mary's (27-5) at Modesto Christian (23-8)

* The best player in the field is Reeves Nelson of Modesto Christian, and he vows to slug out a few more games before heading off to UCLA. St. Mary's looms, however, as the defending champs.

Saturday's championship at Folsom High School: 7 p.m.

Division V

No. 1 St. Joseph 54, No. Priory 47
No. 4 Redding Christian 68, No. 5 Forest Lake Christian 56
No. 6 Branson 48, No. 3 Bradshaw Christian 34
No. 2 East Side Prep 73, No. 7 East Nicolaus 46

Thursday's semifinals

Redding Christian (26-5) at St. Joseph's (24-8)
Branson (29-4) at East Side Prep (20-8)

Saturday's championship at Folsom High School: 3 p.m.

* Bradshaw Christian found out how good Branson is. The Ross team is the three-time defending state champion, experienced and skilled, even with a new coach. Hard to believe that St. Joseph's used to win titles in D-I, with Jason Kidd in the early 1990s.

March 10, 2009
Folsom's Wall says team wins because players don't fear losing

Folsom has been The Bee's top-ranked team for most of the season, despite lacking a physically imposing lineup.

Entering tonight's CIF Northern California Regional opener against visiting Skyline of Oakland, Folsom is riding a 28-game winning streak.

Coach Mike Wall thinks the Bulldogs keep winning because they are a strong-willed group.

"I don't sense that these guys fear failure," Wall said earlier this season. "A lot of teams will freeze up and hold the ball when they get a lead, or they get down on themselves when they fall behind.

"Our guys are steady, steady and steady. They just keep pecking away. They aren't afraid to lose, and that's what championship teams do."

In compiling a 30-1 record, the Bulldogs won three tournament championships, swept all comers in the Delta River League, the toughest in the section, then repeated Saturday as D-I champions with a huge comeback 52-50 win over Franklin at Arco Arena.

The Bulldogs' only loss, in their third game of the season, came to Monte Vista of Danville in a tournament championship game. It's a team Folsom might play in Thursday's semifinals if the Bulldogs top Skyline and Monte Vista beats Lowell of San Francisco tonight.

The most fearless player on Folsom has to be senior star Tony Johnson, a marvelous crunch-time player.

The 5-foot-11 guard also is the ultimate in cool. He is unflappable on the court and in post-game interviews.

After the Bulldogs rallied to beat Pleasant Grove 52-49 at Folsom Feb. 11, Johnson was asked if he and his teammates were feeling pressure as their win streak continued to mount.

"We're just used to it by now," Johnson said matter of factly. "I don't know if you call it survival, but everyone lives to be No. 1."

March 10, 2009
Rocklin's ensemble cast offers winning support to star Brendan Lane

What remains impressive about Rocklin's run to a 29-2 record and a repeat Sac-Joaquin Section championship is that this bunch has just one consistent go-to player offensively in 6-foot-10 Brendan Lane.

The UCLA-bound senior is arguably the best player in the section, backed by averages of 22.3 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game. He's also the team's best three-point shooter with 41 from that range.

Yet while there is no other double-figure scorer on the team, one or two players usually step up to complement Lane's offensive contributions each game.

On Saturday, in Rocklin's 60-56 Division II title-game victory against Fairfield, it was senior guard Zack Moss and senior post Mads Frandsen.

Moss had a season-high 12 points and Frandsen, a foreign exchange student from Denmark, added nine points and nine rebounds.

That backed a 23-point, four-rebound performance by Lane as the Thunder repeated as section champions.

But tonight against visiting Pleasant Valley of Chico in the CIF Northern California Regional opener, it could be a different player or two stepping into the limelight.

It could be veterans Pat Stover, a 6-5 senior, or Jackson Cummings, a 5-9 junior guard, who have each played three years on the varsity.

Or maybe it will be one of three players at other schools last season: senior guard Anthony Romero or junior guards Cody Kale and Tony Williams.

Or perhaps it might be junior back-up point guard Justin Soria or even someone else on the Thunder's 20-man roster.

That depth gives coach Steve Taylor and his staff many options when challenging an opponent.

Against Fairfield, that meant the 6-8 Frandsen giving the Thunder a lift on the boards against the smaller Falcons. It also meant more minutes for Moss, to give the Thunder a little more quickness against a team loaded with it.

"We said at the beginning of this tournament that we were going to look at each game a little differently and do what it takes to win - offensively, defensively and personnel-wise," Taylor said.

So it was a nice opportunity for the 5-10 Moss, who had been a starter at the beginning of the season but had seen his minutes steadily decline.

"We knew Zack was going to play a lot more this game because it was the kind of game he was going to be effective at," Taylor added.

Said Moss, who played more than 12 minutes, "I was just hoping my number would get called and it got called. I just wanted to provide some energy. Whatever is best for the team."

Fairfield coach Eddie Wilson said that Moss, who made five of six shots from the field and had four rebounds and a steal, was the difference.

"No. 23 (Moss) had a huge impact on the game," Wilson said. "He was tremendous. We didn't count on that. He is not someone who should hurt us.

"He's a great athlete, but we play against guys like him all the time."

While Lane was held to one offensive board, Rocklin managed to grab 15 total and out-rebounded Fairfield 33-22 overall.

Frandsen with six and Stover with three led Rocklin's offensive onslaught.

"We flat out couldn't get the big defensive rebound," Wilson said. "They killed us on the glass."

Wilson also wasn't happy with how his team defended against Lane. He was able to get 17 shots, making 11, without having to pay a huge price physically. He took only one free throw.

"They really exposed us in the third quarter with Lane in the post," Wilson said. "We thought we prepared our guys for that."

Wilson felt John Dickson, the 6-5 xsenior defending Lane, should have gotten more help at times.

Indicative of Lane's offensive skills, he once took Dickson off the dribble from about 15 feet out and scored an uncontested layup from the baseline.

"They left him out on an island," Wilson said of Dickson, who led Fairfield with 19 points.

Last year, Fairfield also lost 44-43 in the section championship game to Rocklin, then beat the Thunder 62-59 on the Thunder's home court in the NorCal semifinals thanks to a miraculous 30-foot, three-point bank shot by James Lake just before the buzzer.

Both are hoping that if they meet again, it will be in this Saturday's NorCal final at Arco.
It, no doubt, would be another great game.

The two have split their four matchups - Fairfield beat Rocklin 70-67 Dec. 12 in the De La Salle tournament - the last two years.

None has been decided by more than four points.

"They have great players who play the right way," Taylor said. "We really felt like this was going to be the two teams (in the finals). We thought it would be a game that would go down to the last two or three minutes."

Wilson agreed the two teams have developed a mutual respect.

"I like to think it's because you have two quality programs with good athletes, good coaches," Wilson said. "We have similar styles in terms of pressure defense. I have a lot of respect for what Steve does. He has them (at Arco Arena) year in, year out."

Rocklin went 30-3 last year but Taylor said this season tested the Thunder even more.

"The road getting here was a little more challenging - we didn't sneak up on anybody," Taylor said. "A lesser team would have let down at some point and got upset. They are tough-minded, competitive, hard working and besides that really good basketball players, too."

Although Rocklin has won 19 straight - it's only other loss was 77-66 to Eisenhower of Rialto in the Max Preps Holiday Classic Dec. 27 - Stover, who made the winning basket and grabbed a critical offensive rebound against Fairfield, said the Thunder still hasn't reached its potential.

"The best thing about this team is that we have yet to play our best game," Stover said. "We're still looking for that best game."

March 9, 2009
Franklin coach expects players to bounce back from Folsom loss

Jesse Formaker thinks he has a resilient bunch.

So the Franklin boys basketball coach expects his players to bounce back in a big way from Saturday's disappointing 52-50 loss to Folsom in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game at Arco Arena.

The Wildcats play visiting Lincoln of San Francisco at 7 p.m. today in a California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Regional out-bracket game.

Franklin looked like it was going to produce the upset of the season in jumping to a 31-16 halftime lead over the top-seeded Bulldogs and The Bee's top-ranked team. But Folsom made a huge comeback to win on Brandon Babineaux's putback with 10 seconds to play. It was Folsom's 28th consecutive win.

The seventh-seeded Wildcats (23-8) simply let a great opportunity slip away.

"The only thing that happened tonight is that we're 15-, 16-, 17- and 18-year olds," Formaker said. "...I like the way we've come together throughout this playoff run. I hope we can get it together and get ready for Monday."

Franklin will be the favorite tonight against Lincoln (25-10), the San Francisco Section runners-up. But a win tonight will put the Wildcats into Tuesday's game against defending D-I state champion McClymonds of Oakland at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.

Formaker thinks his players learned a lot in the Folsom loss. Intensity, focus and execution must be maintained for four quarters to lock up a section title, which would have been the school's first in boys basketball.

"We came out riding an emotional wave," Formaker said of the Wildcats' 19-5 first-quarter lead. "We just blew the doors off the place.

"Obviously it's a tough thing to maintain. We talked about good teams making runs and they made a run...which happened pretty fast. It took us a little while to get our feet back under us."

But not enough to prevent Folsom from snatching victory in the waning seconds for the second season in a row. Last year the Bulldogs beat Rodriguez 67-65 in the finals on Tony Johnson's length-of-the-floor sprint and three-point buzzer beater.

Johnson, who finished with 24 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter last year, also sparked the Bulldogs' second-half comeback this season.

Against Franklin, the gifted 5-11 senior point guard made 16 of his 19 points in the final two quarters.

"He was fantastic in the second half," Formaker said of Johnson. "He was very difficult to guard. He was hitting follows and pull-ups and really forcing the issue to the basket.

"I think as well as he played that the difference in the game is when they got on that run, we got away from what he had been doing."

Which was giving Folsom no second-chance shots.

Formaker said the Wildcats had kept Folsom off the offensive boards in the first half, but not in the second half.

"They had seven or eight (seven) in the second half and most were put-back points," he said.

Formaker was quick to tell reporters how proud he was of his guys.

"I've been in a lot of locker rooms," he said. "But I've never felt like I have in this locker room. I feel proud. I'm satisfied and pleased with everything our boys have done."

March 8, 2009
Folsom is unique, reminds me of previous D-I great teams

Folsom's gutty rally Saturday night was a night to remember. That's because this team is a team to remember.

The Bulldogs came into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title game against upstart Franklin on a roll unlike few large-school teams over the years, winners of 27 straight and boasting of a 29-1 mark (now an even more glossy 30-1 after taking down Franklin 52-50 in one of the best title games we've seen).

Folsom clearly ranks as one of the best D-I teams we've seen from these parts in some time. The old-timer coaches on hand at Arco nodded affirmatively when asked about that, and these are coaches who have led or gone against or watched some of the best teams in regional history.

Off the top of my head, I can only recall the Kennedy team coached by Spider Thomas and led by Andre Watson, Leland Johnson and Scott Saber of 1991 that was this hot. That team started 31-0 before falling to Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland in a NorCal opener, prompting O'Dowd coach Mike Phelps to comment, "31-0 up here isn't like a 31-0 down where we're from." Spider still fumes that the game was moved from Kennedy's cozy home confines to more spacious American River College to accommodate more fans, thus wiping away any home-court advantage.

The Jesuit team of 1993, coached by Hank Meyer and led by State Player of the Year Isaac Fontaine thundered to a 35-1 start, losing only to nationally ranked superpower St. Elizabeth of New Jersey in an early tournament before falling in overtime in the state finals to national No. 2-ranked Crenshaw.

The 1983 Highlands team bolted to a 33-0 start behind coach Carl Montross and high-flyer Sean Chambers before losing in a NorCal opener. And the 1982 Kennedy bunch led by Spider and all-time area great Ernest Lee started 29-0, received an at-large berth after losing in the section semifinals and then was quickly eliminated in the NorCal field.

The point is this: Folsom has something unique brewing here with a golden chance to seize some historic standing. Sacramento basketball has a good reputation, particularly in lower divisions, with Oak Ridge and standout Ryan Anderson stunning national No. 4-ranked Mater Dei in the state D-II finals in 2005, Foothill and coach Drew Hibbs winning two state D-III titles, and the work Meyer did with Jesuit.

But mostly, the D-I field from Sacramento hasn't warranted much respect from the Bay Area folks. And it's warranted. Until the Sacramento region wins more NorCal games at D-I, the Bay Area teams will garner the love, and the victories and the banners.

The Bulldogs, coached by a man whose reputation and pedigree soar by the season in Mike Wall, have one special ingredient. They win all the close games. They do so with experience and poise.

They play defense, they share the ball. And they have a star player in guard Tony Johnson who doesn't view himself as any different than any of his teammates, when clearly, he most certainly is in a class by himself. And he has a steady, reliable support crew. Even when they can't shoot straight like the other night, they compete, they hustle, the will themselves to win. Kori and Brandon Babineaux, Tucker Howarth, Scott Moore, Jordan Richards and Patrick Akins are the cogs that make Johnson so good.

Still, if there was a ripe chance for Folsom to be plucked it was Saturday. Franklin played a perfect first period, storming to leads of 10-0, 15-2, 24-5 and 29-12 on a barrage of Ryan Sypkens plays and Michael Rosaroso three-pointers.

But the Bulldogs kept with it, even when the offense struggled, when only Johnson seemed to have any scoring success. Defense and confidence in each other allowed Folsom to keep the dream season intact.

"Sometimes I look at our team and the tough games we've played and wonder how we have such a great record because you're going to lose games sometimes," Wall said. "But we keep sticking together."

The together includes the coaching staff losing it after downing Franklin. Losing it as in dancing, high-fiving and hugging any soul within grasp. Wall is assisted by Matt Mills and Bryan Greenwalt.

Now: more work. The NorCals are here, and that means the road gets much more daunting. Skyline of Oakland is a traditional power, and as some of those great teams of yesteryear can surely attest, a great record is good for window dressing only.

March 8, 2009
NorCal seedings announced; Rocklin, Sac only 2-seeds

The Sac-Joaquin Section championship weekend was only part of the overall fun.

The finalists for the 10 total boys and girls divisions automatically advanced to the Northern California championships that start Monday with out-bracket games. For a number of Sacramento-area teams, today represents the only real day of rest for the players (coaches resting at this time of year? Please).

The Oak Ridge girls are the only local group to earn a No. 1 seed, which is no surprise but what was a bit of a surprise was that no area boys team earned a similar nod, despite two clubs being state-ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions.

Oak Ridge is the top seed in Division II girls after waxing Valley by a record 44 points in the D-II section finals Saturday at Arco Arena. The Trojans, coached by Steve White and led by Sara James, are 28-3 and will play host to Newark of Walnut Creek (24-4) in an opener Tuesday. Valley (19-8) plays at longtime state power Mitty of San Jose.

The Kennedy girls, two-time defending section D-I champion, is the No. 2 large-school seed behind Monte Vista of Danville. Kennedy (25-7), coached by Brandon Yung led by a balanced offensive team that loves to play defense, opens with a home game Tuesday against the winner of Monday's outbracket game between McClymonds of Oakland and Lowell of San Francisco.

The deepest division for girls could very well be D-III with defending NorCal, State and USA National champion Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco earning the No. 1 seed, St. Mary's of Stockton No. 2 and Sacramento No. 5. The Dragons, a seven-point loser to St. Mary's in the D-III section final, plays at Paradise of the North Section on Tuesday, and won't Paradise be in for quite a surprise.

The North Section does not see teams of Sacramento's caliber except in horrific playoff routs.

And in D-V, two-time section champion Bradshaw Christian plays host to Urban of San Francisco in an opener at 6 p.m. at Pleasant Grove High. The girls will be followed by the No. 3-seeded boys, who host three-time defending NorCal and state champion Branson-Ross.

Despite Rocklin and Sacramento being the top-ranked teams in the state in D-II and D-III boys, respectively, both teams had to settle for No. 2 seeds.

The Thunder, two-time section champs, are 29-2 and seeded behind St. Francis of Mountain View (28-2) of the highly regarded Central Coast Section. Rocklin (29-2) hosts Pleasant Valley of Chico of the North Section on Tuesday.

Sacramento, the defending NorCal champion in D-III, is seeded behind Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco and will play host to West Valley of Cottonwood, a 15-11 team from the North Section that is about to find out in a hurry how good the Dragons are. Del Oro, which was routed by Sacramento in the D-III section finals, is slotted No. 8 and will open at Sacred Heart (24-4).

Folsom is the No. 3 seed in D-I after winning its second straight section title. The Bulldogs (30-1) play host to Skyline of Oakland. Oakland Tech is the No. 1 seed.

Christian Brothers is the No. 8 team in D-IV and plays at top-seeded Salesian of Richmond.

March 7, 2009
Franklin looks all-world after first period in D-I title game at Arco

With Ryan Sypkens going on a personal 8-0 run to open the game - two three-pointers and a dunk - Franklin of Elk Grove stormed to a 19-5 first-quarter lead against top-seeded Folsom in tonight's Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game at Arco Arena.

And now at the half, the Wildcats of Elk Grove have a 31-16 lead, stunning in that it's so wide not that Franklin is ahead.

Folsom came in at 29-1 and winners of 27 straight. Franklin has come on strong in recent weeks, having won eight straight. Sypkens, a 6-foot-3 guard bound to UC Davis, is noted for his defense but went on a scoring blitz here. He made a three for a 22-5 lead and Michael Rosaroso's second three made it 29-12.

Stay tuned.

March 7, 2009
Sac State lands nice recruit in Fairfield's Dickson

Word is, Brian Katz is thrilled to have landed a sleeper recruit.

Katz is the Sacramento State basketball coach whose head is still spinning from a 2-win season. He needs an infusion of talent, and in Fairfield recruit John Dickson, he will get plenty.

Dickson is a paper-thin 6-foot-4 senior wing for the Falcons who struggled in a Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal victory over Bella Vista and then showed glimpses of stardom in his team's hotly contested 60-56 loss to top-seeded Rocklin in the Division II finals here tonight at Arco Arena.

Dickson plays with intensity and glee, always grinning on inbounds plays or when he steps to the free throw line.

He had 19 points, five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. He's long and athletic, hit a three pointer, threw down two dunks and was eager to guard 6-10 UCLA recruit Brendan Lane for the sheer fun of it.

March 7, 2009
Reeves Nelson worth the hype, but will Arco see him again?

Arco Arena has seen the last of Reeves Nelson, unless the Modesto Christian star can get his Crusaders into the state championship later this month.

As it stands now, the Division IV NorCal finals are set for next weekend at Folsom High School. What Arco saw tonight was one of the section's all-time terrific talents. The 6-foot-6 senior bound for UCLA can handle the ball, pass the ball, shoot it, run the floor and play above the rim.

Doesn't play much defense, but he will come UCLA time, or Bruins coach Ben Howland is sure to package him up into a convenient little bundle and ship him back to the central valley.

Nelson set the section's all-time single tournament scoring mark a year ago. Tonight, he led Modesto Christian with 22 points and 19 rebounds in a rout of Christian Brothers as his program secured a record 10th consecutive section title. Nelson has overcome a trying season of injury and flair-ups to make his final weeks count.

Rich Estrada of the Modesto Bee said tonight that despite the pressure to succeed, to be UCLA recruit Reeves Nelson, the senior has enjoyed the campaign.

Good thing, too, because it's supposed to be fun before the business of college sports completely consumes his life.

As it stands now, he's one of the very best talents to emerge from the southern part of the section, a group that includes East Union's Scott Brooks in the late 1970s, Merced's Gerald Madkins in the 1980s and Chuck Hays of Modesto Christian earlier this decade.

March 7, 2009
Who's who list of former area coaching greats make Arco sing

The behind-the-scenes folks are the walking weary about now, but they're the ones who help ensure the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs at Arco Arena run so smoothly.

They include some retired school administrators such as Phil Miller of Dixon, he of the sudden Santa bearded look.

And some of the area's best coaches from yesterday also worked the event, including: Tom Crumpacker of Dixon (the former football, cross country and track coach who is now the school's athletic director fighting to keep his sports programs from being axed as part of the state budget); Todd Reiswig (a terrific defensive coach who led the 1995 Elk Grove section title boys team); Rick Stromberg (the classy Davis hoops coach of the 1990s); Don Moak (the former Kennedy baseball coach and area athletic director who is trumped for talent in his family by son Scott, the public address announcer for some of these games); and Hal Steinback (the championship baseball coach from Del Oro and as stern and steady a football referee if there ever was one).

They are sorely missed as coaches but they still collectively represent the good of prep sports.

March 7, 2009
Arco championships again a success for section

The Sac-Joaquin Section championships went without a hitch - again - at Arco Arena..

It just might be the best girls and boys combo tournament in the state, with the NBA arena serving as a tremendous backdrop and big stage. Beyond that, it's the support crew assembled by section commissioners Pete Saco and John Williams that make this all work, year after year.

Things were organized and crisp, though only the first game started on time as on-court player introductions and award ceremonies gobbled up time. But hey, at least it's not a school night. There were top athletes and top teams, and there was good sportsmanship, a credit to Saco and company.

Earlier this decade, boorish behavior - in the stands, on the benches, on the floor - threatened to make this a big-stage mess. Saco demanded that teams and fans clean it up. He got results, right on down to the team captains, coaches and administrators meeting before games to remember people are watching and to play the role of champion.

When players did hammer each other to the floor Saturday, they were quick to help each other up. There wasn't an ounce of bad blood in six games, remarkable considering the magnitude of the moment and setting.

Arco security even made sure that the mouthy Fairfield fan who couldn't comprehend how his beloved Falcons lost the Division II title game to Rocklin was finally shown the door after an hour of nonsense.

About the one drawback and concern is the ticket prices.

At $17 a pop, not including $12 for parking, that's asking a lot in these economically brutal times. The counter argument is that one could catch six championship games for that total as something of a warm-up act for the NorCal finals that are set for Arco next weekend.

On hand here tonight were two UCLA-bound recruits in Brendan Lane of Rocklin and Reeves Nelson of Modesto Christian, the terrific girls teams that are Oak Ridge and Kennedy and the boys D-I tilt between Folsom and Franklin.

March 7, 2009
Oak Ridge girls were not going to be denied

That huge sigh you here is from the Oak Ridge High School girls basketball team, winners of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title after losing in the event to St. Francis the previous two seasons.

All season, the El Dorado-based Trojans were motivated to avenge those losses and this time they took out an undersized, overmatched, and inexperienced Valley team that played the role of Cinderella until Saturday.

Oak Ridge clearly played like a team that been in the finals before. The Trojans were confident, battled-test from a tough preseason schedule, and fired up to claim a section title for the first time since 2005. How fired up? Try beating the Vikings 72-28, the largest margin of victory in a D-II section finals game.

Clearly, the Trojans wanted to play St. Francis. But after losing the previous two title games, any team sufficed.

The point? No team was going to deny Oak Ridge of a championship this time. You could match the WNBA Monarchs or NBA Kings against Oak Ridge and the Trojans were going to prevail.

Valley, however, earned the right to challenge the Trojans Saturday, But the Vikings didn't have enough weapons to make the game close.

March 6, 2009
Young Del Oro proved resilient bunch in reaching boys D-III section final

Del Oro boys basketball coach Geoff Broyles calls his young bunch "resilient."

Last season, the senior-dominated Golden Eagles reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals, losing 56-49 to eventual champion El Camino.

But despite a nearly new cast of mainly juniors and sophomores, Del Oro did one better by reaching Friday night's D-III title game at Arco Arena.

The Golden Eagles (22-8) lost 71-44 to defending California Interscholastic Federation Northern Regional champion Sacramento (24-6).

Broyles starts just one senior, Brian Rowe.

Muscular junior guard Spencer Butterfield, a football standout, is big-time in hoops, too. Against Sacramento he finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Aaron Hendricks is a gifted outside shooter who had 64 points in the Golden Eagles' three playoff wins.

Juniors Jon Root, Nick Lewis and inspirational Nico Ruiz are among the superlative complementary players.

Ruiz, a 6-3 forward, is completely deaf in his right ear and has limited hearing in his left. He had nine points against Sacramento.

It's a bunch that Broyles thought had the making of a playoff team at the start of the season.

But a section title appearance?

"We play very hard," Broyles said in his preseason questionnaire. "We shoot it pretty well, and this is a resilient group of kids."

There's the appropriate "R" word again.

Although beaten easily twice by Sierra Foothill League champion Rocklin, the Golden Eagles finished second in the SFL by winning 8 of their 10 other league games.

That earned the Loomis school a critical No. 2 seed and two postseason home games, largely because of the SFL's league strength, the second best in the section.

In the postseason, Del Oro avenged its loss last year to El Camino by crushing the Eagles 92-66 in the opening round. The Golden Eagles beat Sonora 65-49, then outbattled Foothill 50-46 in the semifinals at Galt High School as Butterfield dominated with 24 points.

So don't be surprised if Del Oro makes another championship appearance next season

March 6, 2009
St. Mary's girls pull away late to edge Sac in D-III Arco thriller

One has to play a perfect game to beat St. Mary's.

No, scratch that. A perfect game just to compete with the Rams of Stockton, who are playing at a national level.

Sacramento competed as well as it could, given the opponent and big-game setting at Arco Arena, but St. Mary's proved to be too skilled, too quick, too deep and too motivated to stall, and the titles continue to mount as a result.

The top-seeded Rams prevailed 72-65 on Friday night in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title game to become the third team in section history to capture 10 titles. The Bear River girls and coach Duwaine Ganskie have won 10 titles. The Ripon girls have won 11.

It was the closest playoff game the Rams have endured this postseason in winning their 19th consecutive game. St. Mary's is unbeaten in section play this season in playing a national schedule.

Chelsea Gray, a national recruit as a junior guard, had 27 points for the Rams, including key buckets down the stretch. Fellow recruit Afure Jemerigbe had 15 and 10 rebounds.

Brittany Shine had 21 and Erica Barnes 20 and 15 rebounds for second-seededSacramento, which will still advance to the NorCal playoffs with a road game Tuesday.

This was the met in the finals for the fourth consecutive season, with St. Mary's winning four times. All told, the Rams have played in 13 section title games in 15 seasons, and they have compiled an amazing 41-2 section playoff record in 10 years and 52-6 since 1995.

Both teams performed as if there could be a rematch in the NorCal finals next weekend at Arco.

Dunn pulled the Dragons to within 56-49 with an inside bucket with 6:21 to go. Gray made it 59-49 with a three-pointer a moment later. Shine pulled the Dragons to within 59-55 with a three-point play with 4:35 to play. A Shine runner cut it to 61-57 with 4:02 to go.

Two free throws by the Dragons' Chamiya Reaves cut iit to 61-59 with 3:31 left. Barnes cut it to 63-61 with a baseline jumper with 2:55 left, and a Barnes putback with 2:24 cut it to 65-63, and a Shine runner in the lane tied it at 65 with 1:45 left.

A three by Sabrina Visperas put the Rams ahead 68-65 1:16 to play, and a Gray layup mae it 70-65 with 34.1 seconds left.

March 6, 2009
Bradshaw boys win D-V boys at Arco, make history

Bradshaw Christian made it a championship night Friday at Arco Arena.

Some two hours after the girls defended their Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship, the top-seeded boys won their first title, topping defending champion Forest Lake Christian 55-52 in a thriller.

Not a bad haul for a school playing varsity sports for just four seasons. The Pride, located just north of the Elk Grove city limits, opened 13 years ago with all of two students in the elementary school. They have since grown into quite a basketball program.

Mike Ruble also made history by becoming the first coach to lead a girls and a boys team to a section title the same season, never mind the same night on the same floor.

"I'm overwhelmed," Ruble said.

Both teams advance to the NorCal Regional playoffs that start Tuesday at home sites. Bradshaw will host and Forest Lake Christian will travel.

Bradshaw junior J.J. Mina had the game of his young career, scoring 26 points on a variety of inside moves and short jumpers in making 12 of 17 shots. Guard Marcus Turner had 14 for the Pride.

Josh Ritchart, an impressive 6-foot-6 junior with skills, had 23 points and eight rebounds. Ritchart fell four points shy of tying Reeves Nelson of Modesto Christian for the single-season section scoring playoff mark.

Nelson had 121 points a year ago, and he will go for a section repeat Saturday as he leads his D-IV Crusaders.

March 6, 2009
De La Salle loss alters NorCal D-I playoff look

So much for De La Salle making any return visit to Arco Arena, where the Spartans of Concord have hoisted a few Northern California championships this decade.

In one of the big upsets this prep academic year - regardless of sport or gender, Newark Memorial stunned the highly touted Spartans with their own slow-it-down, methodical brand of yawn ball, prevailing 39-33 in a North Coast Section Division I semifinal Wednesday.

De La Salle had won 22 straight, had lost only two McClymonds of Oakland coming in (then beat Mack later to establish itself as the favorite in NorCal D-I play). The Spartans were ranked second in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and in the top 10 nationally by national polls.

There were times this season De La Salle looked positively dominant defensively, the very ingredient that paved the way to so many titles in recent years.

But this was Newark's night. It now plays Monte Vista of Danville, a team that had lost twice to De La Salle this season in league play, for the NCS title Saturday night at 8 p.m. at St. Mary's College in Moraga. Monte Vista is the only team to defeat Folsom this season.

And a gauge of how good Newark is, consider the Cougars beat Sacramento High twice this season, 79-72 and 67-66. Sacramento is the defending NorCal D-III champion and state-ranked No. 1 in D-III this season.

Sit down for this as you digest the slug-fest nature of this Newark victory over De La Salle. It was 3-2 after the first period, Spartans, tied at 11 at the half and 19-16, Newark after three. And yes, all of this slow-motion work in an era of the shot clock.

It's early, sure, but for the sake of argument, let's say Folsom wins its section, McClymonds takes its section and regardless of who wins between Newark-Monte Vista. Folsom would likely draw the No. 3 seed, with McClymonds No. 1 (one loss this season, defending state champions from a 33-0 team) and the NCS champion No. 2, even though Folsom has the better record. Monte Vista has the head-to-head win over Folsom, and should Newark win, all the more argument from the NCS folks for the seeding pow wow to take place Sunday.

And should Franklin beat Folsom, and at this point who can be too surprised considering how well the Wildcats have played this postseason, it would likely draw a low seed. The Wildcats are only a No. 7 seed in the section playoffs.

March 6, 2009
Bradshaw Christian girls roll in D-V title game at Arco Arena

Experience, size and defense powered the Pride tonight at Arco Arena.

Top-seeded Bradshaw Christian, a relatively new school getting used to championship success in a hurry, belted No. 2 Wilton Christian 49-33 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title game.

It was a rematch of last season's title game, with the same result. Bradshaw, located just north of the Elk Grove city limits, is 27-4 and has won 13 straight. It has not lost since falling to Division IV section champion Christian Brothers. Wilton Christian had its 20-game winning streak snapped. The Patriots (26-2) lost only to Bradshaw this season.

Both teams advance to the NorCal Regional playoffs that start Tuesday, with Bradshaw drawing a home game and Wilton headed for the road.

Lauren Beyer led Bradshaw with 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals, and Fernandi Espinosa had 12, eight and two and Cheyenne Williams contributed 11, 10 and two. Kayla Froehlich-Williams led Wilton, as she has all season, with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Her team made just 13 of 51 shots for 25 percent shooting, and the Patriots had 25 turnovers.

"That's our game - defense," Beyer said.

March 6, 2009
Championship high school basketball is underway at Arco Arena

Tiny schools and giant powers are showcasing their basketball skills tonight at Arco Arena in the first day of the two-day Sac-Joaquin Section championships.

Here's the lineup:

Bradshaw Christian vs. Wilton Christian, Division V Girls, just about wrapping up.

5:30 p.m. - Bradshaw Christian vs. Forest Lake Christian, Division V Boys.

7:30 p.m. - National power St. Mary's vs. Sacramento, Division III girls.

9 p.m. - Defending CIF Northern California champion Sacramento vs. Del Oro, Division III boys

Six games will be played tomorrow, including the D-II boys title game between defending champion Rocklin and Fairfield at 5 p.m. and the D-I boys final between defending champion Folsom and Franklin of Elk Grove at 8:30 p.m.

March 6, 2009
Jesuit-CBS baseball cancer benefit has special meaning for Boscos

It will be a special day for the Bosco family Saturday.

Friends and relatives are coming from near and far to get a glimpse of Jimmy Bosco, Jesuit's stellar senior outfielder, and a nationally ranked Marauders baseball team that will play rival Christian Brothers in the season opener 5 p.m. at Sacramento City College.

But the game has a bigger purpose. It is being billed as the "Swing for a Cure" Breast Cancer Awareness fund-raiser game.

Players and coaches from both teams will wear pink wristbands, the bases will be pink and members of the Jesuit and Christian Brothers communities who are breast-cancer survivors will throw out ceremonial first pitches.

Among them is Jennifer Bosco, Jimmy's mother.

Jennifer Bosco battled breast cancer when pregnant with William, 9, the youngest of her four children.

"She was diagnosed when she was five months pregnant, had a mastectomy, delivered the baby and had stem cell and radiation therapy," says Carol Morey, Jennifer's mother. "It's been 10 years and everything is going great."

Jimmy, Jennifer's oldest child, is a Cal baseball recruit.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Bosco was the Delta River League MVP last season and hit a school record .505.

"We've watched him from T-ball all the way up," Morey said of Bosco. "The whole family is coming down tomorrow to see Jimmy and to see Jennifer."

A Bee All-Metro first team selection as a junior, he is among one of the area's finest collection of players on one team in sometime, including four other D-I recruits.

The defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions are ranked No. 4 in the Easton Sports National High School Poll; No. 5 in the preseason 100; and No. 15 in the ESPN RISE Fab 50.

The combination of Jesuit's national rankings and its natural rivalry with CBS is expected to draw a large crowd.

"Our schools normally do not charge admission to our baseball games, so the money we plan to raise will benefit our worthy charity," said Jesuit Athletic Director Phil Nuxoll.

Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students, with proceeds from the gate and T-shirt sales going to the Albie Carson Breast Cancer Foundation.

Carson was a 1965 St. Francis graduate who died of breast cancer in 2002.

March 5, 2009
Will third try be the charm for Fairfield?

Third-seeded Bella Vista has a scoring drought that lasted nearly three minutes down the stretch and No. 2 Fairfield held on for a 57-55 triumph in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal tonight at Arco Arena.

The Falcons advance to the title game for the third successive season, still seeking their first title.

They will play top-seeded Rocklin, the very team that beat them in the finals last season, though Fairfield won in a NorCal rematch less than a week later.

Joshua Lasley. John Dickson and Thomas Bondurant each scored 11 points for Fairfield. Tim Martin and Justin Haley had 11 each for the Broncos, who had their 11-game winning streak snapped in their best season since twins Matt and Chris Borcich led them to a section D-II title in 1990.

Bella Vista used a 5-0 run to tie it at 53 before going cold. It wasn't until Andrew Meza hit a long jumper with 26 seconds left that pulled the Broncos to within 56-55 that the Broncos finally found any measure of offensive success.

March 5, 2009
Boys D-I and D-II semifinal box scores

Division I semifinals

No. 1 FOLSOM 67, No. 5 MERCED 50

Merced 14 8 10 18 - 50
Folsom 16 12 22 17 - 67

M-Nelson 6, Huddleston 26, Franey 5, Dunham 3, Salinas 2, Cooksey 7, Pedretti 1. F-K.Babineaux 20, B.Babineaux 6, Johnson 26, Akins 7, Moore 2, Richards 5, Andersen 1.


Franklin 18 23 15 18 - 74
Golden Valley 13 8 15 11 - 47

F-Rawlings 7, Shaw 17, Carraway 8, Sypkens 22, Dogra 3, Iroegbu 8, King 7, Johnson 2. GV-Scott 9, Sykes 9, Fletcher 13, Hill 4, Thomas 3, Wooten 8, Martinez 1.

Division II semfinals

No. 1 ROCKLIN 67, No. 5 WOOD 57

Wood 14 17 12 14 - 57
Rocklin 19 18 8 22 - 67

W-Terrazas 12, Bruce 24, McChristian 12, Axvig 2, Balsey 5, Rodriguez 2. R-Cummings 2, Williams 6, Lane 19, Kale 17, Stover 9, Romero 6, Moss 2, Frandsen 6.


Bella Vista 11 16 12 16 - 55
Fairfield 14 13 17 13 - 57

BV-Lacey 6, Carino 4, Martin 11, Haley 11, Rice 8, Corrigan 2, Meza 8, Serena 4, Parrish 4. FF-Flores 2, Lasley 11, Dickson 11, Th. ondurant 11, Hernandez 3, Hubbard 9, Tr.Bondurant 10.

March 5, 2009
Cordova legend Guy Anderson to be inducted into hall

The honors continue for the honorable Guy Anderson.

The Cordova baseball coach in his 40th season prowling the third-base box will be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame along with 11 others on July 1 in Chicago, it was announced today.

Anderson is second in the state with 822 victories, ranking him fifth on the all-time national prep list.

He has won 15 league championships, six Sac-Joaquin Section titles and guided 23 playoff teams. Anderson directed some of the state's top teams in the 1970s, including the 1972 team that included Jerry Manuel, and his teams won five section titles in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, Anderson coached a horde of future college talent, including Geoff Jenkins, still slugging home runs as a major league player after a stop at USC.

There isn't a more deserving coach for such an honor than Anderson. Baseball still matters to the old coach, even as changing demographics have changed the culture of Cordova and the town. Shrinking enrollment - and a thinning talent pool - have made wins harder to come by in recent seasons.

But Anderson marches on with a firm grasp on discipline, fun and a measure of humor. He and wife Karen regularly bicycle across the country, and Anderson still legs out home runs in senior softball games, including two inside-the-park jobs this summer as Karen did body English to keep him in forward lean.

Anderson will be inducted during the annual National Federation of State High School Association meetings. He has not set a time table as to when he would step away from coaching. Let's hope it's not any time soon.

March 5, 2009
Big plays, defense, late run spark Rocklin past Wood in D-II

Rocklin went to cornerstone pieces and a reserve who spent his junior season buried at the end of the bench at a nearby school to inch closer to a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II repeat.

The top-seeded Thunder, top ranked in the state at D-II by Cal-Hi Sports, used an 8-0 run to close out Wood of Vacaville 67-57 in a D-II semifinal tonight at Arco Arena.

The No. 5 Wildcats scrapped and competed with Rocklin to the point of taking a 50-49 lead with 6:32 left, but the Thunder used the late run to extend their 18th consecutive game.

Brendan Lane, the 6-foot-10 center headed to UCLA on scholarship, hit a bank shot, Anthony Romero - the last man on Whitney's bench last season before his transfer - had a corner three with 53.5 seconds to go and a Cody Kale three-point play with 34.7 seconds left stalled Wood's upset bid.

Lane had 19 points and eight rebounds and Kale had 17 and eight as nine Thunder players logged at least seven minutes of action in a display of tremendous depth. Carson Bruce led Wood with 24 points.

Rocklin plays the winner of tonight's late Fairfield-Bella Vista game in Saturday's final at Arco.

March 5, 2009
Franklin impresses in routing No. 3 Golden Valley in D-I play

Defense and a blistering first half propelled seventh-seeded Franklin of Elk Grove past No. 3 Golden Valley of Merced 74-47 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal at Arco Arena tonight.

It was Franklin's best effort of the season, considering the opponent and setting, and the Wildcats' eighth consecutive victory places them into the section finals for the second time since 2005.

Franklin plays top-seeded Folsom, winners of 27 straight, on Saturday at Arco, a 9 pm. tip off that should produce a tremendous finale.

Fresh off of a 26-point monster effort in eliminating Sheldon in a quarterfinal, Golden Valley guard John Sykes endured the best defense he has encountered this season in the Wildcats. He suffered through a 1 for 10 first half and managed just nine points of 4 of 17 shooting.

Sykes struggled against the superb defense of one of the section's top players in Ryan Sypkens, who scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half. Sypkens, off to UC Davis on scholarship, made 7 of 8 shots in the first half and 9 of 11 overall. The guard also had seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Christian Shaw scored 17 for Franklin on 8 of 9 shooting.

So disappointed with how Franklin out hustled his bunch, Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter cracked to his team in the fourth quarter, "That's the way to hustle. At least someone is getting on the floor."

It was Franklin that collectively got on the floor, and the Wildcats were rewarded with a title shot.

March 5, 2009
Folsom outnumbers Huddleston, beats Merced in D-I

With team play, defense and major momentum, top-seeded Folsom trounced No. 5 Merced 67-50 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal tonight at Arco Arena.

The Bulldogs, winners of 27 straight games, play Franklin of Elk Grove in Saturday's 9 p.m. title tilt at Arco. Folsom is the defending champion, and it has gone 4-0 lifetime in title games.

Allen Huddleston scored 26 points for Merced in another impressive scoring display, but the state's second leading scorer headed to the University of the Pacific on scholarship was a one-man army. He was outnumbered, and his season ended because of it.

Tony Johnson is not as prolific as Huddleston, but he doesn't have to be with the talent around him. Still, the senior had 26 points and had moments where he clearly looked like the top talent on the floor.

Kori Babineaux, the star of tomorrow for Folsom as a sophomore guard, had 20 points. Patrick Akins, the steady third guard in this mix, had seven points and four assists. And bangers Brandon Babineaux and Scott Moore had 13 rebounds each as the Bulldogs played well without one of their anchors.

Inside player Tucker Horwath sat out with a concussion suffered from Thursday's quarterfinal rout of Enochs. The senior insisted he will play Saturday, adding with a grin, "No way I don't play now."

March 5, 2009
Hustle was the reason why Oak Ridge beat Grant in girls hoops

The difference between a winner and a loser in basketball is desire and the Oak Ridge High School girls team displayed more than Grant in its 61-54 in Wednesday semifinal victory.

The stat sheet showed both teams played a pretty even game. Grant made of 23 of 60 total field goals and Oak Ridge 26 of 63. Grant made 1 of 7 three-point field goals, and Oak Ridge made 2 of 10. Grant made 7 of 13 free throws, Oak Ridge 7 of 14. Both teams seven steals each.

The difference in the game came down to rebounding. Oak Ridge collected 48 and Grant had 34. Oak Ridge also tallied 22 second-chance points to Grant's 18. Those stats alone are indications of one team wanting the ball more than the other. And that's a tough pill for Grant to swallow, especially because it led by 10 points at half time and got Sara James, Oak Ridge's standout player, to foul out with less than two minutes to go.

March 5, 2009
Valley's Rucker Is Not A Coach, He's A Motivator

It remains to be seen if the Valley High School girls' basketball team will defeat Oak Ridge in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship Saturday afternoon at Arco Arena

But one thing is certain. The Vikings did a stellar job of reaching the title game.
Taz Barnes, who on Wednesday made two free throws with nine seconds left to clinch Valley's 65-63 semifinal victory over two-time defending D-II section champion St. Francis, summed up the Vikings team best.

"What people don't know is we're the same team as last year. We just have a different spirit. Raymond Rucker is the reason for the Vikings fire. He got a Vikings team, which finished 2-25 in 2006-07 and 8-18 in 2007-08, to believe.

Rucker, who previously coached in Atlanta, does not consider himself a coach. He calls himself a motivator. As a result, the Vikings are playing at an unexpected level.

What they lack in height and weight, the Vikings make up for it in speed, quickness, hustle and heart. Those qualities manifested itself Wednesday to the point where the Vikings out rebounded the Troubadours 50-31, and took away the Troubadours bread and better, the three-point shot, causing them to make just 2 of 22 shots from behind the arc.

Rucker has also helped players like his daughter and senior guard Charisse William, who scored all her 12 points on Wednesday from three-point range, junior guard Joslyn Moore (19 points) and Shaquila Dixon (20 rebounds) to play inspired.

As a result, the Vikings are one win away from claiming their first section title since 1981. Much of the credit has to go to the coach. Excuse me. I mean motivator.

March 5, 2009
Vista del Lago shows special qualities in loss to Modesto Christian

Earlier this year, Ponderosa boys basketball coach Dave Millhollin said of Vista del Lago's 10-man all junior roster: "They're not normal juniors."

Then I saw the Eagles (21-9) play against Millhollin's Bruins Feb. 6 and I was disappointed. They looked like ordinary juniors in losing 40-33 on their own home court to the rival Bruins.

I was wondering what all the fuss was about, although Millhollin's clock-milking crew can be tough to beat when they control the tempo as they did on that night.

But last night's Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV semifinal between the Eagles and vaunted Modesto Christian showed why a lot of people have been impressed with the first-year varsity program that does not yet have a senior class.

Vista del Lago put on an impressive display of spacing, passing, ball-handing, shooting, rebounding and intensity in the 64-60 loss to the Crusaders.

If Vista's "big men" of 6-4 Demarcus Wishom and 6-3 Marques White could have stayed out of foul trouble a little longer, it's conceivable the Eagles could be playing Sierra Valley Conference rival Christian Brothers for the championship on Saturday at Arco Arena.

White picked up his third foul with 2:37 to play in the second quarter and Wishom, who got his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, fouled out with 2:58 to play.

"Our big kids getting in foul trouble hurt us," said Vista del Lago coach Jeff Bridges.

Otherwise, both did an extraordinary job of denying Modesto Christian's Reeves Nelson good looks at the basket as he was constantly double and triple teamed by the Eagles' active defense.

The 6-8, 235-pound Nelson finished with 15 points and took just 11 shots from the field.

For Nelson, who averages nearly 27 points, it was the toughest any team defended him this season. It also was the closet section playoff victory the UCLA recruit has experienced in 15 postseason games.

"There are very high expectations on us and people want us to win by 30 or 40 every time," Modesto Christian coach Gary Porter told our Modesto Bee colleague Richard Estrada. "That doesn't happen."

Not against Vista del Lago.

The Eagles (21-9) held the lead briefly a couple of times in the first half and once late in the third quarter in their bid to snap the Crusaders' consecutive string of section titles at nine.

Vista del Lago tied the game 52-52 on White's 3-point play with 6:09 left, but a Reeves 3-point rainbow from the corner seconds later put the Crusaders ahead for good.
But it stayed close.

Vista got within 61-60 on Hayden Lescault's 3-pointer with 44 seconds left. Lescault, who led Vista with 19 points, made the shot despite 6-4 Johnny Hutton being right in his grill.

Nelson hit the front end of a one-and-one to make it 62-60 with 20.5 seconds, before Vista called a timeout to set up for the potential tying shot with 8.5 seconds left.

Bridges wanted Lescault to take the ball, dribble and look for White cutting along the baseline under the basket. But in an exchange between Lescault and Rushabh Shah, the Crusaders' Marcus Butler was able to tip the ball away. He and Lescault scrambled for the ball but it was Lescault who drew the foul.

Butler made two foul shots - although Hutton, a better free-throw shooter, tried to line up at first for the shots before Vista's bench called attention to the deception - with 4.6 seconds to secure the win.

Despite being disappointed that a potential upset slipped away and that the Eagles' goal of reaching Arco Arena fell one game short, Bridges likes his team's upside.

"I'm thrilled to think of the opportunities for next season," he said. "This experience is going to makes us a better team."

March 4, 2009
Butterfield ices trip to D-III title game for Del Oro

As hot as it was inside Galt High School's gymnasium on Wednesday night, the stuff running through Del Oro junior Spencer Butterfield's veins was ice cold.

Butterfield hit two clutch free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining to give the second-seeded Golden Eagles a 50-46 lead over third-seeded Foothill that would ultimately hold as the final score in a Division-III semifinal.

"I was just thinking, 'the team needs these,'" said Butterfield, the game's leading scorer with 24.

Del Oro led 46-39 with three minutes to go, but Foothill cut the deficit to 48-46 with 28.8 seconds remaining. Caleb Gauff had a chance to tie with a strong take, but his lay-in attempt fell off the rim with eight ticks remaining, setting up Butterfield's foul-line chances.

Earlier in the night top-seeded Sacramento downed fifth-seeded Whitney. The Dragons will play Del Oro at Arco Arena at 9 p.m. Friday for the title.

"This is huge for us, wev'e been so close in the past but fell short," Butterfield said. "We're excited to get to Arco and play Sac High."

March 3, 2009
Folsom routs Enochs, inches closer to D-I title repeat

STOCKTON - Fast hands, fast feet and a willingness to defend.

That's the Folsom Bulldog way, and it has the top-seeded Sac-Joaquin Section Division I boys team roaring right back into Arco Arena in search of more title success.

Playing superb defense, including forcing 28 turnovers through three quarters and 34 total, and using its terrific three-guard set, Folsom pounded No. 8 Enochs 69-50 in a quarterfinal game at the University of the Pacific.

Of the four games played here tonight, Folsom was the only team that won going away, a testament to the team's defense, balance, depth, poise and momentum that now includes a 26-game winning streak. The Bulldogs now brace for No. 5 Merced on Thursday at Arco Arena.

And how fun.

Merced features the dynamic and prolific Allen Huddleston, a senior guard who is second in the state in scoring with 32 points a game. He had 37 on 12 of 19 shooting in a quarterfinal win over Burbank earlier in the night.

Folsom will counter Huddleston with its three-guard set of Tony Johnson, Kori Babineaux and Patrick Akins, who scored 13, 13 and 15 points against Enochs, respectively. Johnson, the steady senior guard, had six steals and four assists. Akins had fiver assists.

The Eagles of Modesto had more size, anchored by 6-foot-9 post Marcus Bell (15 points, 11 rebounds), but Folsom countered with offensive depth. Brandon Babineaux had nine points and six rebounds, Moore had nine points, five rebounds and four steals.

The only downer for the Bulldogs was losing gritty inside player Tucker Horwath, who took a spill in the first half and hit his head. He did not return for the second half with a mild concussion. It is not clear whether or not the senior will play on Thursday.

"He's everything to us, our most consistent guy all year in a lot of ways, a rock in the middle," Folsom coach Mike Wall said. "He's a huge part of our team."

Folsom seeks to go 5-0 in section title games come Saturday. Wall seeks a section repeat and his fourth title overall, having won one with Foothill in Division III in 1997.

March 3, 2009
Top-ranked Folsom boys lead Enochs by 10 at half in D-I game

STOCKTON - It's halftime here at the University of the Pacific and top-seeded Folsom leads No. 8 Enochs of Modesto 37-27 in the late contest of the four-game Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal set.

The Bulldogs, winners of 25 straight and the defending champions, have off-set Enochs' size advantage with defense and guard play.

Kori Babineaux has nine points through two quarters for Folsom, with brother Brandon and Tony Johnson adding seven each. Patrick Akins has four with four assists and two steals. Johnson, the steady senior guard, has three steals.

Scott Robertson leads Enochs, a new school, with eight, and 6-foot-9 senior post Marcus Bell has six points and six rebounds. All of his points have been off of dunks. He's a good player, able to run the floor and defend.

March 3, 2009
D-V boys semifinals: Forest Lake upends Waldorf; Bradshaw continues to roll

No. 3 seed Forest Lake Christian 54, No. 2 seed Sacramento Waldorf 46

Sac-Joaquin Section leading scorer Josh Ritchart had a game-high 41 points to lead the defending-champion Falcons over Sacramento Waldorf in the first semifinal at Galt High School on Tuesday night.

The Falcons rode Ritchart's hot shooting to a fast start and led the Waves 27-16 at halftime, with 24 of those belonging to the 6-foot-7 junior.

"When I hit outside shots early, it opened up the lane," Ritchart said.

Sacramento Waldorf made a push in the second half, getting the lead down to single digits, but the Falcons' defense clamped down and perserved the win. Forest Lake Christian will look to defend its title against Bradshaw Christian/Victory Christian at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at Arco Arena.

"If we play defense like we did tonight, we'll be tough to beat," Ritchart said.

No. 1 seed Bradshaw Christian 69, No. 4 seed Victory Christian 54

Friday figures to be a busy day for Mike Ruble. Because late Tuesday night at Galt High School, about six hours after his top-seeded Bradshaw Christian girls punched their ticked to Arco Arena for the D-V championship, his top-ranked Pride boys squad did the same.

The girls will try for a repeat championship against Wilton Christian at 4 p.m. Friday and right afterward the boys will play third-seeded Forest Lake Christian.

"It should be nicer to play back-to-back," Ruble said. "Get in, get out, rather than sitting around."

The Pride got out to a hot start against Victory Christian, building a 41-30 halftime lead and never looking back. The Pride were paced by James Hackleman's 18 points while Victory Christian junior Nathan Coppernoll led all players with 30.

March 3, 2009
No. 3 Golden Valley eliminates No. 6 Sheldon in D-I boys

STOCKTON - Third-seeded Golden Valley of Merced took advantage of four turnovers down the stretch and made 8 of 11 free throws in the closing minutes to hold off No. 6-seed Sheldon 69-65 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I boys quarterfinal tonight at the University of the Pacific.

The Cougars will play Franklin of Elk Grove in a semifinal Thursday at Arco Arena, seeking to reach a section final for the first time since competing in the D-II championship in 2005 (and falling to Ryan Anderson and Oak Ridge, a team that went on to stun national No. 5 Mater Dei in the state finals).

John Sykes scored 26 points for Golden Valley to go with nine rebounds.

Marcus Jackson and Darius Nelson each scored 18 points for Sheldon, a team that had come on strong in recent weeks after injuries slowed things at mid season. Sheldon won the section title two years ago, with Jackson starting at guard, and it lost in overtime to Rodriguez in the semifinals a year ago.

The future looks bright for the Huskies, however, with Nelson, fellow 6-8 sophomore post Ramon Eaton and junior guard Burnis Chambers returning.

March 3, 2009
Division I boys quarterfinal box scores; semifinal schedules

Box scores galore from the first three Sac-Joaquin Section Division I boys playoff quarterfinal games from the University of the Pacific:

No. 1 Folsom 69, No. 8 Enochs 50

Enochs 8 19 10 13 - 50
Folsom 15 22 14 18 - 69

E-Wasden 3, Iles 8, Bell 15, Richardson 2, Wilhelm 6, McMahon 5, Galloway 1, Robertson 10. F-K.Babineaux 13, B.Babineaux 9, Johnson 13, Akins 15, Howath 2, Richards 5, Andersen 1, Olpin 2, Moore 9.

No. 7 Franklin-Elk Grove 69, No. 2 Rodriguez 67

Franklin 16 13 13 27 - 69
Rodriguez 12 12 16 27 - 67

F-Rawlings 10, Shaw 10, Carraway 19, Rosaroso 18, Sypkens 9, King 3. R-Robinson 9, Greene 5, Lewis 9, Richmond 13, Pouncey 3, Baker 2, Allen 26.

No. 5 Merced 76, No. 13 Burbank 72

Burbank 16 15 19 22 - 72
Merced 10 17 26 23 - 76

B-Mitchell 23, Dozier 4, Barnes 8, Bean 15, Holloway 14, Mack 4, West 4. M-Bolden 1, Nelson 1, Huddelston 37, Barron 7, Franey 5, Carey 3, Dunham 5, Cooksey 17.

No. 3 Golden Valley 69, No. 6 Sheldon 65

Sheldon 12 13 18 22 - 65
Golden Valley 12 15 18 24 - 69

S-Chambers 6, Nelson 18, Jackson 18, Eaton 9, Moore 12, Kennedy 2. GV-Livesay 9, Scott 13, Sykes 26, Fletcher 11, Hill 7, Wooten 3.

Thursday's semi-finals at Arco Arena
No. 1 Folsom vs. No. 5 Merced, 4 p.m.
No. 3 Golden Valley vs. No. 7 Franklin-Elk Grove, 5:30

March 3, 2009
Franklin ousts No. 2 Rodriguez in boys D-I play

STOCKTON - With core leaders leading the way, and coach Jesse Formaker sweating it out right to the end, Franklin High School of Elk Grove ousted the second-seeded team in Division I with a 69-67 conquest tonight at the University of the Pacific.

Seeded seventh, the Wildcats ended a 17-game winning streak by Rodriguez of Fairfield, thus turning the bottom half of this Sac-Joaquin Section bracket into a free-for-all.

Amir Carraway had 19 points, Michael Rosaroso 18, Garrett Rawlings 10, Christian Shaw 10 and Ryan Sypkens 9 to lead Franklin, which has won seven straight and 12 of 13 games over all. Shaw had 11 rebounds.

Carraway is rounding into form after missing most of the season with a broken foot, and the powerfully built 6-foot-4 senior provides an inside game and much more, including "heart and spirit," according to Formaker.

Franklin played for the section title in 2005 with Formaker, falling to Laguna Creek by three. Formaker led Hayward High to the NorCal Division II title in 2003 at Arco, beating Valley.

March 3, 2009
Huddleston of Merced beats Burbank in D-I play

STOCKTON - No doubt the kid can play.

And shoot. And score. And lead.

Allen Huddleston of Merced was every bit as good as advertised, perhaps even more so. The senior guard scored 37 points on 12 of 19 shooting in a thoroughly dominating effort as the No. 5-seeded Bears held off No. 13 Burbank 76-72 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal tonight at the University of the Pacific.

Huddleston, a 6-foot-1 guard bound to UOP on scholarship, dazzled his Pacific coaches who were on hand for a peek with dizzying display of offensive wizardry.

He pulled up for three-pointers (making 6 of 10), was successful on runners and inside shots. He put the Bears ahead to stay at 74-71 with a runner with 34.9 seconds left. Huddleston came in averaging 32 points, which prompted Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell to comment earlier that he wasn't about to allow one guy to end his season. The Titans tried, but Huddleston proved his worth, scoring 14 in the first half and 27 through three quarters.

"The kid's good," Ferrell said. "No doubt about that."

The Titans, with just two seniors on the roster, upset No. 4 Stagg of Stockton in a D-I opener to reach this game.

A year ago in a semifinal loss to Edison of Stockton, Huddleston had 11 turnovers in what he deemed the worst game of his life. Times have changed. He will now lead Merced into the section semifinals against the winner of the Folsom-Enochs game Thursday at Arco Arena.

March 3, 2009
NorCal tournament to expand next season, and more is better

STOCKTON - Just ran into Pete Saco and John Williams, the commissioners of the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Both men wore the expression of glee, as if they couldn't keep a secret any more. And here's why: The high school basketball playoff format that we see already, already a darn good product over the years with a lot of great teams, great games, great players and big-time buzzer-beater finishes, is about to get even better.

The state advisory committee has approved expanding the Northern California tournament starting next season.

In short, instead of the finalists in each of the 10 section finals for boys and girls advancing to the NorCal tournament as has been the case for years, the four semifinalists for each section will advance. The NorCal tournament would go from a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and then a championship Saturday at Arco Arena.

"The state continues to expand with more and more schools but the state tournament hasn't,'' said Saco, a real visionary on such playoff expansion, including the state bowl for football that has become an enormous success. "We've seen more than a 30 or 40 percent increase in schools in (nearly 20 years)."

Said Williams, "It's a great idea. Every so often you get teams that feel slighted due to seedings or lose a tough game but could be a good (NorCal tournament team)."

Two examples are clear this season. The Del Oro girls are 26-1, rolling along in Division III with a field that includes Sacramento (its opponent in a semifinal this week) and nationally ranked St. Mary's of Stockton.

And the Bear River boys are smarting from a great season that ended to Modesto Christian in a D-IV quarterfinal.

And last year in boys division I, another example. Rodriguez beat Sheldon in double overtime in a semifinal, then lost at the buzzer to Folsom in the finals. Three teams separated by the slimest of margins. All three would be worthy of advancing, instead of just the finalists.

In another time, like next season, those teams could still be quite formidable in a NorCal tournament. Here's how I see it: More games, more intrigue, more drama. And it's good for the fan, the players, the schools. It's good for the prep economy.

And this: In 2011, we could also see an Open Division playoff. Imagine the possibilities there.

March 3, 2009
Oak Ridge is not a lock to beat Grant in girls D-II semifinals

Those thinking Oak Ridge is going to have an easy game with Grant in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls semifinal at UOP on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. should think again?

Granted, Oak Ridge compiled a 26-3 record on the strength of Sara James and Kristina Williams. But the James and Williams are the only two players on the Trojans' roster that averages in double figurers in scoring. If one has a bad game, and no other player steps up, the Trojans could be in trouble.

Grant is playing some of its best basketball right now. The Pacers have three solid scores in Brianna Parker, Alycia Crisp and Daja Dehayward. Plus, Grant has played a more competitive league schedule than Oak Ridge. Plus, the Pacers must sustain their full-court press and double and triple team James to limit her touches.

In the final analysis, I think Oak Ridge will win a close game.

March 3, 2009
Valley girls were super in the 1980s; crave similar success again

Valley for years sported some of the region's top girls basketball teams.

How long ago before the resurgence this season under coach Ray Rucker (from 2-25 in 2007 to 19-6 now and in the section Division II semifinals)?

Think when Madonna was fashionable and cell phones were many years away from being an absolute teenage necessity. The 1980s was a good decade to be a Viking, when the only high schools in the Elk Grove Unified School District were Elk Grove and Valley (now there are 10).

Under coach Maynard Rodland, Valley won the D-II section title in 1981. The Vikings had the area's leading scorer in 1988 with swing Crystal Lee, a military brat who learned how to play while bouncing the globe with her military family.

And in the mid-to-late '80s, Valley sported good teams that fell to great Grant teams in the D-I playoffs.

Valley is in an upswing again this season with a young roster that includes guards Charisse Williams and Joslyn Moore. Valley plays St. Francis, the two-time defending champion, on Wednesday at Pacific. An upset here ranks as one of Valley's best basketball moments, ever, and that's saying something.

March 3, 2009
Formaker, Franklin take on No. 2 Rodriguez in D-I quarterfinals

Jesse Formaker knew his team had the potential to do this: win big games, down the stretch and make a run to Arco Arena.

The Franklin coach is pleased that his Wildcats, seeded seventh in Division I, have used defense and balance to reach the quarterfinals at the University of the Pacific. Franklin plays No. 2 Rodriguez of Fairfield tonight at 5:30 in Stockton, looking perfectly capable of pulling an upset.

Franklin downed No. 10 West 69-54 in an opener behind Christian Shaw's 17 points and a three pointer by Michael Rosario that sparked a fourth-quarter run to put the game out of reach.

Rodriguez is a great challenge. It has won 17 straight and is eager for a section title rematch against Folsom, which won the D-I title a year ago on a buzzer-beating jumper by Tony Johnson.

March 3, 2009
Reeves Nelson outlasts Patrick Scott and keeps on scoring

That was some show of fireworks when Modesto Christian earned its 38th consecutive section playoff win the other night at Bear River in a Division IV contest.

The Bruins jumped to a 13-5 lead, thanks to three three-pointers by Patrick Scott, who finished with 25 points, a point shy of his season average. But Modesto Christian, not at all looking like a No. 6 seed, rolled 70-46 behind Reeves Nelson (20 points) and Johnny Hutton (20).

The Crusaders and coach Gary Porter have won nine consecutive section titles in various divisions and 11 overall and they look poised to add to the winnings.

Modesto Christian plays No. 2 Vista del Lago on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Tokay High in Lodi.

Nelson is worth watching, though the UCLA-bound senior has had a troubling season with injuries and off-the-court woes. He is one of the section's all-time great playoff scorers, a list that includes former Modesto Christian star Chuck Hays and former Vallejo and Sheldon star DeMarcus Nelson.

March 3, 2009
Wudel returns to Arco, takes Wood with him this time in D-II

Wood is new to the Arco Arena playoff scene, but Mark Wudel isn't.

Wudel is the Wood coach whose resume includes championship success with Vacaville High and some trips to Arco. Now Wudel has the Wildcats, also of Vacaville, bounding into Arco feeling frisky.

Wood, seeded fifth, toppled No. 4 Pleasant Grove 53-52 on Friday in a Division II quarterfinal when Mike McChristian hit a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to advance wood to Arco for the first time. McChristian had 15 points and Carson Bruce 22 as the Wildcats overcame an 8-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Up next: Top-seeded Rocklin, winners of 17 straight. The teams play Thursday at Arco at 7:30 p.m.

March 3, 2009
Del Oro offers two terrific talents in D-III boys

Del Oro has a team to look for Wednesday in a Division III semifinal, taking on always dangerous Foothill and veteran coach Drew Hibbs at 9 p.m. at Tokay High in Lodi.

And the Golden Eagles, seeded No. 2 this postseason, have a team to look for long term as well.

Two of the area's top young players are Del Oro players in Spencer Butterfield and Aaron Hendricks. A sophomore, Hendricks had 26 points, including four three-pointers, in a 65-49 victory over Sonora in a quarterfinal.

Butterfield is a terrific athlete, period, seemingly able to pick his choice of colleges come recruiting time for two sports next year when he is a senior.

He missed some games in football season with a leg injury and was sorely missed. When Butterfield returned in shoulder pads, he tore apart Elk Grove in looking like a bona fide recruit.

Butterfield impresses in basketball as well, able to drive, distribute, defend and shoot. But interesting thing about Foothill. Hibbs implores defense, and generally receives it.

March 3, 2009
Enochs is big, sure, but Folsom is rolling in D-I

Enochs is a new school in Modesto, eager to make a mark in athletics.

The Eagles can send ripples across the Sac-Joaquin Section tonight if it can topple top-seeded Folsom in a Division I quarterfinal at the University of the Pacific in Stockton (game is at 9 p.m.).

Folsom is 27-1, winners of 25 straight games and the defending champion playing the part. But here was coach Mike Wall being a typical playoff coach, which is to say nervous.

"That's a big team," Wall said.

Very big.

Enochs has a front line that features 6-foot-9 Marcus Bell, 6-7 Abel Watts and 6-6 Scott Rubertion.

But size likely won't be the deciding factor here. It's experience and poise, and that's what Folsom is all about behind its big three of guards Tony Johnson, Kori Babineaux and Patrick Akins. Few teams defend better or draw more charges than the Bulldogs. And charges against trees like these Eagles will be well worth it.

March 3, 2009
Years ago, coaches were puzzled with section seeding format

For years, basketball coaches within the Sac-Joaquin Section howled about the unfairness of the seedings.

The section playoff committee did not seed teams on the eve of the playoffs. The pairings in the 1980s used to be set well before the playoffs even started. Since the 1990s, with section commissioner Pete Saco (and in recent seasons with the help of assistant commissioner John Williams), the section seeds teams.

And it works. Sure, there are upsets, per the norm for any playoff field at any level of play.

But it's hard to argue the seedings over all.

Take a look at this quote by Jim Smrekar, the former Valley coach and now an Elk Grove Unified School District administrator.

Smrekar came to Valley in 1986 from the Central Coast Section and made it clear that he didn't like the seedings back in 1987, telling The Bee then, "I'm new up here, but I object very strongly to the way they run this thing. I think it should be seeded right before the tournament. That's the fair way to do it. It's not an unmanageable task, asking them to seed 16 teams."

March 3, 2009
Burbank has faced prolific scorer in playoffs before

Lindsey Ferrell has fretted over the stat sheet for days now.

The Burbank basketball coach is preparing his upstart Titans, seeded 13th in the Division I field, against No. 5 Merced and Northern California's top scorer in Allen Huddleston, a guard putting up 32 points a game. The Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal between the teams is today at 4 p.m. at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, exactly where Huddleston will be playing next season on scholarship.

And Ferrell's task is this simple: Contain Huddleston and the Titans advance to Arco Arena on Thursday with a chance to take on the winner of tonight's Folsom-Enochs winner.

"I refuse to let one man beat us,'' Ferrell said today. "But he's a great player. We'll try all kinds of things."

It's not the first time Burbank has played Merced in the playoffs while facing the section's top scorer.

In 1987, Burbank fell to the Bears and Gerald Madkins at Merced. It was the Bears 60th consecutive home victory. Madkins came in averaging 27 points. He had a game-high 23 against Burbank, led that season by guards James Mouton and Sam Caldwell and coach John Copeland.

Merced won three successive section titles with Madkins, one of the section's all-time great talents who went on to play at UCLA. Huddleston eclipsed Madkins this season as Merced's all-time career scorer.

March 2, 2009
Ferrell has Burbank hoops looking dangerous

Lindsey Ferrell is one of the good guys in coaching. He's a friendly face, who can be a disciplinarian with a jovial spirit.

Player love to compete for him and opposing coaches enjoy to talk to him before and after contests. Ferrell is the boys coach at Burbank, a program with a rich hoops history that includes some of the best players in the city - Victor Minnifield, Chris Meeks, Clint Arnold, Jamie Townsend and many others - and just a handful of coaches since the school opened in the early 1960s - Chuck Calhoun in the '60s and 70s, John Copeland in the 1980s and early '90s, Frank Maestas in the mid '90s to earlier this decade to Ferrell.

After taking over a team that went 4-21 in 2006, Ferrell has the Titans looking dangerous in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I field. Burbank is the lowest seeded team in the playoffs, boys or girls, a No. 13 darkhorse that downed No. 4-seeded Stagg of Stockton 46-32 in an opener. The Titans now prepare for No. 5 Merced and the state's second leading scorer in guard Allen Huddleston.

Burbank is typically quick and feisty, led by Terrance Mitchell, Lucky Dozier, Ken Holloway, Aaronson Ware and Aaron Bean. The last two losses this season for the 21-7 Titans have been to one of the state's top teams in Sacramento High, by 11 and 13 points.

It was Copeland who named Ferrell the girls coach in the mid '90s, never mind that Ferrell had no experience. Copeland, then the athletic director, liked Ferrell's style and how he worked with students. And besides, to know Copeland was to agree with the man, so help the Copeland Stare.

It was a great move.

Ferrell led the Titans women's program to 10 consecutive playoff berths and the D-II section title in 2004.

Copeland still casts quite a shadow over the men's program, but the Titans are rising again, fielding just two seniors. Copeland guided the Burbank women's team to 55 wins in the early 1980s and then steered 12 playoff teams and won 247 games in 13 seasons with the boys. Copeland's 1982 girls team reached the section Division I finals, falling to powerhouse Norte Del Rio, a team that merged with Grant in 1983 and went 36-1. Copeland's 1988 Burbank men's team reached the D-II section finals and fell 64-62 to Jesuit despite 25 points from Arnold.

Copeland, retired from teaching and coaching, lives in Florida, and he keeps an eye on his old school and his old friends and coaches. He would like the current edition, to be sure.

March 2, 2009
Despite CBS loss, Capital Christian boys enjoy successful season

The Capital Christian boys were eliminated in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV basketball quarterfinals Friday at Christian Brothers, but coach Phil Oates was pleased at how well the Cougars played this season.

After a long playoff run under then coach Bill Nelson - including five consecutive D-V section runners-up finishes to Modesto Christian - the Cougars just missed landing a postseason berth in Oates' rookie year in 2007-08.

That was a tough season because senior star Gabriel Strong suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury at the start of league play. The Cougars stumbled to a 13-13 finish.

But Oates had to feel a little luckier this season as the Cougars enjoyed a nice turnaround in finishing 21-7 and placing in a second-place Golden Empire League tie with Encina.

Charles Standifer, a 6-foot-4 forward, transferred into the school from Woodcreek and 6-1 senior guard Chris Brown came from a school in Louisiana.

The two combined for more than 50 percent of the team's points this season.

The quick, strong and smooth Standifer was a dominating presence in averaging 25 points and more than 10 rebounds a game.

Against CBS, he kept the ninth-seeded Cougars in the game from start to finish. He made 12 of 22 shots, including three three-pointers, from the field and was five of five from the foul line for 32 points.

"Charles is one of the most modest guys I've ever seen," Oates said. "And he's such a great talent. I'd just like to see him get a little more recruiting interest."

What makes him so effective?

"He has an amazing first step, a guard-quick first step," Oates said. "He shoots real well and is real physical. He's very strong."

Brown, who had eight points against the Falcons, is a Hurricane Katrina survivor who moved to the Sacramento area to live with a relative. He averaged 9.5 points for the Cougars.

"I'm glad he selected us," Oates said. "He's an amazing story."

For Capital Christian's last home game, Brown's mother flew in from Louisiana to see her son play.

"It was a surprise for Chris and real emotional," Oates said.

Capital Christian might still be playing if 6-4 senior Spencer Hagan had returned after a solid junior season. But Hagan, a Bee All-Metro second team wide receiver, decided to focus on his football workouts as he prepares to walk-on at Cal.

Still Oates isn't complaining how things turned out, especially with junior guard Paul Roberson the only returning Capital Christian varsity player from 2007-08.

Oates got some nice play from a hard-working bunch of role players that included Roberson, senior Jeremiah Oates and juniors Trevor Farrington, Marshall Ruecker, Edwin Virgin and Brian Simmons.

March 2, 2009
Inside the girls and boys basketball playoffs

Here are some of the story lines going into this week's semifinals and finals of basketball playoffs.

According the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section:
* 80.2 percent (better than 4 out of 5) of the higher seeded teams have been victorious, which is pretty close to the norm. Last year was 78.1, the year before was 76.8, the year before that, 75.3 percent.

* The girls have been slightly more predictable with the higher seeds winning 82.5 percent of the time, while the boys' higher seeds have won 78.0 percent of the time.

* Not one division has gone undefeated, but three divisions are 11-1 so far. They are D-2 girls, D-3 girls and D-5 boys. Division I boys, who have yet to play their second round, are 8-1.

* Division 4 (boys and girls) higher seeds have struggled so far, winning only 17 of 24 games (70.8 percent), while the other four divisions have gone 77-16, 82.8 percent.

* The No. 1 seed is still alive in all 10 divisions and the top seven seeds represent 95 percent of the remaining teams. All four top seeds are still alive in three divisions, D-5 boys, D-3 girls and D-5 girls. Three or four of the top six seeds remain alive in all 10 divisions.

* Despite most of the top seeds still playing, there is one Cinderella remaining in the tournament - Burbank boys (Division I-No. 13 seed). The Titans are the only team seeded below 8 still alive.

* Seven of the 10 divisions do not have a single seed below 6 remaining.

* Nine of last year's champions remain alive in the tournament. On the boys' side, Folsom (D-1), Rocklin (D-2), Modesto Christian (D-4) and Forest Lake Christian (D-5) are still playing. On the girls' side, all five champions from last year are still alive - Kennedy, St. Francis, St. Mary's, Christian Brothers and Bradshaw Christian.

* There six possible repeat finals matchups.
* Boys: D-1 - Folsom-Rodriguez; D-2 - Rocklin-Fairfield.
* Girls: D-2 - Oak Ridge-St. Francis (They have met in the finals in both 2007 and '08); D-3 - St. Mary's-Sacramento (They, too, have met in the finals in both 2007 and '08); D-4 - Christian Brothers-Modesto Christian; D-5 - Bradshaw Christian-Wilton Christian.

* Eight different schools have both their boys and girls teams still playing. They are Sheldon, Franklin-EG, Sacramento, Del Oro, Christian Brothers, Modesto Christian, Bradshaw Christian and Sacramento Waldorf. Twelve times boys and girls from the same school have won titles in the same year, last accomplished by Modesto Christian and Sacramento in 2007.

* Sixteen of the 44 remaining teams have never won a Section title in basketball. Eight of those 16 have never been to a finals contest. They are: boys - Enochs, Wood, Whitney, Vista del Lago and Bradshaw Christian; girls - Lodi, Franklin-EG and Argonaut. Five of the eight schools opened this century: Franklin-EG, Enochs, Whitney, Vista del Lago and Bradshaw Christian.

* There is no guarantee of any first-time winners because in every division at least one remaining team is a former champion. In only Division II girls are all four remaining teams former champions. Semifinalists in that division are Oak Ridge (1), Grant (4), Valley (1) and St. Francis (7).

* If St. Francis and Oak Ridge reach the D-2 girls final, it would be a rematch from the past two years. Last year, St. Francis stunned Oak Ridge with a three-pointer at the buzzer, and two years ago the Troubadours beat No. 1 and undefeated Oak Ridge. St. Francis has the longest current SJS playoff winning streak with 10 straight wins.

* If St. Mary's girls beat East Union and Sacramento beats Del Oro, St. Mary's and Sacramento will square off in the finals for the third straight year (they split the past two titles) and fourth time in the past five years.

* In Division IV girls, two interesting possibilities exist. If Christian Brothers and Modesto Christian make the finals, it will be a rematch from last year. However, if Linden and Argonaut prevail in the semifinals, it will be a league (MLL) rematch.

* In Division I boys, Folsom and Sheldon could meet in an all-DRL final; or, Merced and Golden Valley could meet in an all-Merced/CCC final. Four of the eight teams remaining in that bracket have yet to win a Section title.

* In Division II boys, Rocklin and Fairfield could meet in the finals for the second straight year. Or, a Wood-Fairfield final would match two MEL teams.

* If Whitney wins the D-3 title, it would be a football-basketball title combo for the Wildcats. But, to even make the finals, they would have to get past Sacramento, which has been in the last four Division III finals (winning twice). Adding its Division II finals appearance from 2003, the Dragons have been in a Section final five of the past six years.

* Modesto Christian boys have won nine straight Section titles while racking up a record 38 straight SJS playoff wins through this year's quarterfinals.

* The CVCL has three teams among the final four in Division V boys - Sac Waldorf, Forest Lake Christian and Victory Christian. The fourth team in the bracket is No. 1 seed Bradshaw Christian.

* If Bradshaw Christian boys and girls win titles this year (both are seeded No. 1), it would be mark only the fourth time both a boys and girls team from the same school won titles in the same year. And, to make matters even more interesting is that athletic director Mike Ruble coaches BOTH teams!

* Nine coaches with multiple titles to their credit have teams still playing. They are Gary Porter (11), Tom Gonsalves (6), Drew Hibbs (3), Derek Swafford (2), Scott Gradin (2), Steve Taylor (2), Mike Takayama (2), Robb Spencer (2) and Victor Pitton (2).

* The Sac-Joaquin Section has not had a State champion since the Oak Ridge boys stunned Mater Dei to win the 2005 D-2 title.

* Reeves Nelson (Modesto Christian) has moved ahead of MC alum Chuck Hayes into third place on the all-time playoff scoring list with 283 points. He would need a whopping 95 points to top DeMarcus Nelson's record 377 points.

* Sacramento's Chase Tapley (180) and Rocklin's Brendan Lane (180) could join 10 others to surpass 200 points in a playoff career. Tapley has already scored 64 points this year and is within reach of Nelson's one-season record total of 121, set last year.

* The two longest streaks of consecutive playoff appearances for girls' teams were extended, as Bret Harte made the playoffs for the 30th straight year and Colfax made it for the 28th straight year.

* St. Mary's boys moved ahead of Jesuit for the most playoff appearances when the Marauders missed this year's playoffs. The Rams made their 31st appearance this year. Jesuit remains at 30. Jesuit, however, remains comfortably in first with 64 playoff wins, nine ahead of any other school.

Below is some information you might want/need to know as the weekend approaches.

Finals Schedule: At Arco Arena

4:00 p.m. D5 girls Noon D4 girls
5:30 p.m. D5 boys 1:30 p.m. D2 girls
7:30 p.m. D3 girls 3:30 p.m. D4 boys
9:00 p.m. D3 boys 5:00 p.m. D2 boys
7:00 p.m. D1 girls
8:30 p.m. D1 boys

About the Prep blog

Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at or

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