Vista del Lago vs. Sacramento in the CIF Division III high school basketball championship from Arco Arena. Video highlights from Access Sacramento. Watch full game coverage Tuesday March 9 at 8:30 p.m. or Saturday March 13 at 10:30 a.m. on Comcast or Surewest Cable Ch. 17 or on the internet at www.AccessSacramento.org.
By Bill Paterson
Will Davis admits he sometimes feels forgotten.
That's easy to understand, even though the Sacramento High senior forward is 6-foot-9.
Davis plays in the long shadow of teammates Josiah Turner and Travon Abraham, two of the area's best scoring guards.
Already an intimidating defender and superb rebounder, Davis has started to assert himself on the offensive end now that the perennial power is making another deep playoff push.
Davis scored a career-high 22 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots in top-seeded Sac High's 65-55 win over second-seeded Vista del Lago in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game Friday night at Arco Arena.
For the Dragons (24-6), it was their second consecutive section title and fourth in six years. Vista del Lago (28-3) was trying to win its first boys section title in just its second year of varsity, and its first season with seniors.
Turner had 23 points to break Reeves Nelson's single-season playoff scoring record of 121. Nelson starred at Modesto Christian and is playing as a true freshman this season for UCLA.
Turner finished his four-game section playoff run with 127 points but had a mixed performance overall. He made only 6 of 17 shots from the field and turned the ball over 10 times.
Abraham, a senior headed to Rice, finished with 13 points but also struggled in making just 4 of 14 shots.
But Davis, averaging 8.8 points per game coming in, was almost dead on.
He made 7 of 10 shots from the field and 8 of 9 from the foul line, all in the second half.
That helped keep Vista del Lago, making a valiant second-half run, at bay.
The Eagles were as close as 54-51 with 1:37 to play before the Dragons finished by making 11 of 12 free throws. Davis was 7 of 8 in that stretch, impressive for someone averaging just better than 50 percent.
"It's my senior season and I'm a captain so I'm starting to get more comfortable asking for the ball," Davis said. "Sometimes we get a little selfish, and I have to remind the guys, 'Hey, I'm open.'"
Abraham admits that while he and Turner sometimes try to do to much, they are getting more confident in Davis.
"We're starting to get real comfortable with giving Will the ball," Abraham said. "He works so hard on defense that we should reward him on offense."
But Davis understands why it's taken awhile to gain his teammates' confidence.
"I struggled with my shooting for awhile," Davis said. "In league play I was missing a lot of shots, a lot of layups. I think I wasn't as focused. But now that I'm into the playoffs and it's my last year, I'm a lot more focused."
Sac High coach Derek Swafford says that Davis has picked the perfect time to emerge from his offensive "shell."
"Will is an unpolished gem," Swafford said. "He's one of those kids who is starting to come into his own. He has a huge upside."
Davis and the Dragons had their hands full against the seven men of iron from Vista del Lago, which put on an impressive show of fortitude 48 hours after beating Center 69-66 in triple overtime in the semifinals.
Sacramento won the game at the foul line, making 31 of 40 attempts. Vista del Lago hit 10 of 20 free throws.
In trying to contain Turner and Abraham, five of Vista's seven players got in foul trouble, although the three who eventually fouled out, Hayden Lescault, Jaquai Wiley and DeMarcus Wishom, didn't do so until the final 39 seconds.
When they had the ball, the Eagles passed and cut brilliantly, but they also missed a number of open outside looks and easy attempts around the basket. They made just 34 percent (22 of 64) of their shots from the floor.
Lescault, Vista del Lago's star who had scored 73 points in three previous playoff games, topped the Eagles in scoring 17 second-half points. But the 6-4 senior guard was only 6 of 17 from the field and 1 of 5 from three-point range.
Marques White added 12 points and 10 rebounds, Spencer Hatten nine points and two steals and the 6-5 Wishom eight points, seven rebounds and six blocks.
Sacramento led by as many as 11 points late in the first half but Kalib Smith tied it for the Eagles, 34-34, with a layup with 3:08 to play in the third quarter.
Davis responded by scoring twice and making a free throw as the Dragons regained the lead for good.
"When we had that 11-point lead, I expected us to build on that, but we got a little impatient and they played tough," Abraham said. "They kept fighting."
Turner, who is second in the state in scoring at 28 points per game, said he thought he was in a war.
A Vista del Lago foul with 26 seconds left got Turner visibly angry, and he had to be restrained by his teammates.
"I was expecting it to be rough, but I wasn't expecting all that contact they were giving me," said Turner, who made 11 of 16 free throw attempts. "I go through (getting fouled) a lot, but I've never gone through all that contact.
"It didn't get to me until the end when one of their players did an on-purpose hit to me. But throughout the rest of the game I just took it as motivation."
It's possible that the two teams might meet again, possibly in the finals of the next playoff stage on March 20 at Arco Arena.
Both have qualified along with Center, The Bee's top-ranked team at the start of the playoffs, for the expanded California Interscholastic Federation Northern California regional playoffs starting on Tuesday. All three are ranked in the state D-III top 10 by Cal-Hi Sports.
Seedings will be announced Sunday.
Vista del Lago would love to get another shot at the Dragons. And probably so would the Eagles' huge crowd (Sac High supporters were sparse).
Turner, who plays with supreme confidence and doesn't always mask his emotions, was greeted at times with chants of "overrated" from the huge Eagles student rooting section as well as some adults sitting in the stands within earshot of media row.
"I think we get energy off that, our kids love it," Swafford said. "They just love playing in front of a crowd. You start yelling at them, and they play a little better."