March 31, 2010
When it comes to basketball, Josiah Turner doesn't know meaning of slow down

By Bill Paterson

Sacramento High boys basketball star Josiah Turner is a natural.

That's what Mom says, that's seconded by Dragons coach Derek Swafford and that's what a lot of folks think who have watched the 6-foot-3 junior point guard play.

What people may not realize is that The Bee's 2009-2010 Boys Basketball Player of the Year also is a voracious worker.

It's a work ethic he seems born with. When he could barely walk, he already was dribbling a basketball.

Turner never seemed to get enough of the game, whether playing against older kids in an Oak Park league or through the years in AAU events in Northern California and beyond.

"I'd take him to the Bay Area a lot because the competition was tougher," said Doris Ward, his mother, and a former Sac High point guard. "He played against kids who were older. They were a lot more physical. It didn't matter. He was like a fish in water."

It's not just about playing, however.

Turner admits to being a workaholic when it comes to hoops.

He's a 6 o'clock regular most mornings at the Mather Gym, getting in 90 minutes of shooting practice before heading off to school. After school it's conditioning and weight lifting. He hopes to add 14 pounds of muscle to his 177-pound frame by the time school gets out.

"Even though he's got it all, he realizes he's got to put in the work," Swafford said.

Says Ward: "Josiah understands that that there is always someone working when you're not."

After leading Sac High to a 26-7 season, it's second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section D-III championship and a third straight Northern California championship appearance, Turner is ready for more.

He can't wait for the AAU season to begin, even though the highly recruited player said he hasn't picked a team.

He played last season with the Southern California-based Pump 'N Run, which he said wants him back. But the Oakland Soldiers and Los Angeles-based Team Odom, which features good friends Darius Nelson and Ramon Eaton of Sheldon, also are seeking his services.

Swafford hopes Turner doesn't put all his focus into AAU this offseason.

For a player who already has gotten at least 10 college scholarship offers, Turner needs to fine-tune his academic game and help prepare his Sac High teammates for a state title run next season, says Swafford.

"I don't think he has to go all over the country and play all these different people to be seen," Swafford said. "I think the coaches know who Josiah is."

He also hopes Turner will keep an open mind about college as the calls and offers continue to flood in.

"A D-I basketball factory may not be right for him," Swafford said. "Maybe a smaller program, like a St. Mary's, could be a better fit. You want to surround yourself with people who want the best for you, want you to graduate and get that degree. There are too many horror stories.

"I want him to realize success is how you complete yourself, not how people define you."

Turner hasn't indicated a college preference and isn't likely to make up his mind until after the summer, if even then.

He doesn't want to make his earlier misstep of a premature decision. He verbally committed to Arizona State at the end of his freshman year at Cordova, then rescinded that commitment last summer.

"I was flattered at the time they made the offer, but I realized later it was too early," Turner said.

Turner hasn't ruled out attending Arizona State.

But now it's just one school on a list that is growing longer by the day.

Also on the list, according to Turner: Kansas, Georgia Tech, Arizona, Oregon, USC, Florida International, Marquette, Santa Clara and Southern Methodist, where current teammate Travon Abraham is headed.

Pretty heady stuff for the former little guy - "Josiah didn't really start to grow until the eighth grade," Ward says.

Back in the day, little Josiah would encounter some of his toughest battles against older sister Quanisha, the ex-pitbull of a point guard for Sac High, now playing at Chico State.

"Back then I'd tell Josiah if he could get around her, he could get around anybody in the city," Ward said.

March 31, 2010
Woodcreek's Pinkerton lassoes Bee Boys Coach of the Year honors

By Bill Paterson

Life as a cowboy prepared Burnel Pinkerton for the rigors of coaching high school basketball.

When the Woodcreek boys basketball coach was 16 and living in Ohio, his father sent him off for a summer to work as a wrangler in Wyoming.

The Bee's 2009-2010 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year had an interest in wildlife management and was thinking about attending Humboldt State.

"We'd go into the wilderness on horseback on Monday and come back on Friday," Pinkerton said. "Sunday was the rodeo. But I found enough time to attend a basketball camp at the University of Utah."

Pinkerton said it was a marvelous experience, even if he still carries a permanent reminder of his "City Slickers" days.

"I was working a rodeo, and I was given a whip," Pinkerton said. "I was told that every time the horses came near the fence, I was to swing the whip like crazy so the horses would go the other way.

"But this one horse didn't. Instead he jumped on top of me and pinned me against the fence. He had me T-boned, and he busted my rib. It never healed right. I still have the lump in there because of it."

But that pounding couldn't match the physical toll taken on Pinkerton's knees as a basketball player.

In leading Woodcreek to the Sierra Foothill League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division II titles during a momentous 28-6 season, Pinkerton endured much pain.

He hobbled about on two bad knees, the result of his high school days in Ohio and later as a 6-foot-3 center at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka.

Pinkerton has had five surgeries on his right knee and on March 23 he had the fourth on his left knee. It required 21 staples and has left a 10-inch scar.

"I feel pretty good now," Pinkerton said Tuesday. "But I went through a week of pain. The IV painkiller made me sick, and the pills weren't strong enough."

Any time things got bad, though, the 51-year-old Pinkerton could think back to the most enjoyable ride of what has been a rollar-coaster high school coaching career for the U.S. history teacher.

"It was a great year, even if it ended on a heart-breaking buzzer beater," Pinkerton said of the 48-47 loss to St. Francis of Mountain View in the CIF Northern California Regional championship game March 20 at Arco Arena. "I just felt bad for the kids. I really felt they deserved that victory."

Pinkerton has a lot of friends in the coaching community so they were rooting for a guy who has probably had more downs than ups as a prep head coach.

"Three years ago they won seven games," said Oakmont coach Rick Campbell, a good buddy. "To go from that to a team that wins a section title and plays for a Northern California championship is impressive. He did an amazing job."

Unlike private schools, which reload with talent season after season, most public school coaches only come across that special team every now and then.

"With a public school program you take the good with the bad," Campbell said. "You take the hand that is dealt you. The thing about Burnel is that however his teams were doing, he always looked out for his kids."

Senior center Mike Kurtz, who will play at UC Davis on scholarship next year, said the one thing he appreciated about Pinkerton was his sense of humor.

"He's a funny guy," Kurtz said. "Basketball is normally a very serious game. But he'd kid around at times in practice, try to lighten things up, to make it fun. You could tell he wanted us to enjoy the experience."

Pinkerton admits that coaching hasn't always been enjoyable.

After putting in his dues with assistant coaching stints at Redwoods, Sacramento State, Foothill, Johnson, El Camino, Roseville and Oakmont, Pinkerton became Granite Bay's first boys coach.

The experience didn't go well.

"Life is too short," Pinkerton told The Bee's Sam Amick in 2002 after stepping down under pressure from a team that finished 12-17. "I left because of parental pressure, because of a difference in philosophy with the parents and the players. When it happened, some of the players were upset, were loyal to me. Some weren't."

Pinkerton admits today he could have handled things differently and that Granite Bay might not have been the right fit for him.

"That was a tough experience," he said. "I didn't realize that if you didn't play someone's kid, it could get you in trouble. I wasn't prepared for anything like that.

"When I look back, some of it was my fault, some was just the way it was. Some of it was their (the parents) fault. I was not a good politician. I was too blunt."

When Paul Hayes stepped down as the Woodcreek coach in 2004, Pinkerton got a second-chance opportunity in the Sierra Foothill League.

But the Timberwolves weren't an immediate success.

There were player issues, a couple of missed playoff opportunities. There also was a miserable but not unexpected 7-20 2007 season, then last year's quick start that resulted in a dose of reality once in league play. Woodcreek went 21-8 but just 7-5 in league and lost 68-67 to Bella Vista in the second round of the playoffs.

Then came this season with a cast of seniors that learned well from the previous year's experience and a group of juniors hungry to keep winning.

"I knew we had this kind of potential," Pinkerton said. "But the SFL is so tough, I wasn't sure if we were going to pull this out. We're not nearly as good (talent wise) as our record. That 28-6 and the teams we beat goes to the character of our kids. They fought hard all the way."

En route the fourth-seeded Timberwolves knocked off the top-seeded team in the NorCal field by beating Archbishop Mitty 91-83 in overtime in the semifinals in San Jose, then took second-seeded St. Francis down to the wire, only to lose on a miraculous last-second shot after a missed attempt.

"These are public school kids here, trying to get it done the old-fashioned way," Pinkerton told the media after that crushing loss. "That's what the boys need to leave behind.... We're old school. We pass, cut and kick. And they're all home grown. That makes it sweet for us to come this far."

Pinkerton says he has been fortunate to have such a loyal and talented right hand man in assistant Terry Tangney.

"Terry Tangney is 72 years old and is a lot smarter and knows a lot more basketball than me," he said of the former Placer boys coach. "He's a good guy."

The addition before the season of Mike Holland, who played for Hayes on Woodcreek's 2003 CIF NorCal championship team, also proved a wise move.

"We had a younger guy who was a little more in tune with the players," Pinkerton said. "So I'll take the credit for surrounding myself with good people."

He can also take credit for taking every advantage in Woodcreek's late-season push that had him referring to his players as the "Cardiac Kids."

After losing back-to-back games to Rocklin and Del Oro in the SFL and preparing to play at rival Oakmont Feb. 10, Pinkerton decided he needed an edge.

So for good luck he put on a T-shirt that a coaching friend had sent him from his Redding, Pa., state championship team of a few years earlier.

It was a little snug, especially under Pinkerton's burgundy Woodcreek top. But when they beat Oakmont 70-45, he refused to take it off.

"I figured after beating Oakmont by 25, I ain't changing," Pinkerton said.

So he kept wearing the same T-shirt, socks, pants and top.

"Don't worry, I washed them after each game," Pinkerton said.

That outfit carried him through nine more wins and a split second from a 10th.

"Coach Tangney would say, 'We're not superstitious, we're just careful,'" Pinkerton said.

March 30, 2010
Castro, Pleasant Grove impress at Fresno Easter baseball tourney

By Bill Paterson

Andy Boogaard, our estemmed colleague at the Fresno Bee, was impressed with the performance of junior pitcher Kyle Castro and Pleasant Grove in Monday's Fresno Easter Baseball Classic.

Here's his report:

Their young history suggests strongly they will be major baseball players in the Sac-Joaquin and Central sections.

But Monday night, it was all about the one with more experience and talent - Pleasant Grove High of Elk Grove, which handed the ball to Kyle Castro and received a pitching clinic while coasting past Clovis North 13-0 on the Broncos' field to complete first-day play in the Fresno Easter Baseball Classic.

"That's about as well as we can play," said coach Rob Rinaldi, whose Eagles joined Buchanan, Fresno and Clovis West as the only 2-0 teams in the 41st event that calls for the 36 teams to play four games in three days.

Pleasant Grove, in its fourth season and third with seniors, arrived 8-0 and top-ranked in the Sac-Joaquin Section (by after averaging 18 wins its first three years.
Clovis North, in its second season and still a year away from seniors, marched in 13-1 and fifth-ranked in the Central Section after going 22-10 in 2009.

Further, the Broncos turned to their ace, Chris Mariscal, a junior right-hander coming off a no-hitter and 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA.

But it was 7-0 after four innings, Mariscal was out after throwing 84 pitches, and it was all Castro.

"I haven't thrown a better game than this," said the 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander, who, in fact had thrown three very good ones.

Coming in 3-0 with an 0.50 ERA, he pitched a two-hitter while throwing 73 percent of his pitches for strikes - 49 of 67.

He has played a lot of ball with his cousin, Mason Hastings, on their neighboring ranch in the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove. And the 16-year-old juniors made it looked like just another play day Monday night as Hastings did the catching.

"It's like your best friend's sitting over there, throwing to him," said Castro, who struck out eight and walked one.

Broncos coach Chris Patrick could only applaud: "They played better than us in every facet. There wasn't a whole lot to tell my guys. It can be a humbling game, but I'm excited to see how we answer back (today)."

March 29, 2010
Arco also proves a winner at state basketball finals in Bakersfield

By Bill Paterson

Oak Ridge's impressive upset of the Long Beach Poly girls wasn't the only good news for the Sacramento area in this past weekend's CIF state basketball championships in Bakersfield.

Attendance was so poor at Rabobank Arena - 8,786 total for two days and 10 games - that CIF executive director Marie Ishida didn't hide her disappointment during her annual press conference during the event.

"I am disappointed in the crowd," she said. "Very disappointed."

For the first time in 13 years, the state championships were held somewhere besides Arco Arena. The games had to be moved because of a conflict with the NCAA Regional women's basketball playoffs that were held Saturday and today at Arco.

Rabobank, which has drawn well for the CIF state wrestling championships, out-bid Fresno, Oakland and Anaheim for the one-and-done event.

No doubt having no Kern County teams in the event hurt. As hard-working reporter Zach Ewing of the Bakersfield Californian pointed out, that area hasn't had a team reach the state championships since 1994.

It also was a long drive either way for those from the prime population areas in Northern and Southern California, something Ishida noted.

Many schools also are on spring break.

While the one-year experiment may not be a litmus test for Southern California - teams from that region complain every year about having to come to Sacramento to play - it's doubtful any venue can provide the combination of good attendance at a reasonable cost that makes Arco so attractive.

CIF officials say Arco has consistently drawn crowds of 18,000 to 20,000 over the two days, regardless of the teams. And the Maloofs like having the event.

The last time the state basketball finals were held in Southern California was 1997 at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim. Attendance was paltry.

Arco will be the site of the state finals for 2011, then the contract goes out to bid again.

But the harmonious arrangement between the CIF and the Maloofs could all change, of course, if the Kings eventually get a new arena.

At that point, the CIF might just get priced out of the Sacramento market and have to find some other venue in which to play.

March 27, 2010
Oak Ridge makes history and denies Long Beach Poly history, winning state D-I girls title game in Bakersfield 55-42; first large school team in section history to do so

BAKERSFIELD - Fourth Quarter, CIF D-I title game, Oak Ridge vs. Long Beach Poly.

Dakota McLarnan is superb in this gym. No nerves, cool as can be, and has four threes, including one just now for a 45-40 lead with 3:36 to play.

Carly Bettencourt has a driving layup - almost circus like - and Oak Ridge leads 47-40 with 2:40 to go.

It's over now, and Oak Ridge has made history, becoming the first team in Sac-Joaquin Section history - boys or girls - to win a large-school state title, and by winning 55-42, the Trojans denied Poly a share of state history.

The Jackrabbits sought to become the first team - girls or boys - to win five straight state championships. No fluke here, folks. Oak Ridge was the better team. More composed, better passers, better shooters, the biggest star in Sara James, who had 20 in the first half, was slowed in the second but still had her superb supporting cast with her.

James had 26 points and McLarnan had four three pointers and 12 points. The celebration is on. Well earned.

March 27, 2010
Oak Ridge leads Poly 38-34 after 3 in what would be major upset in state D-I girls final; James has 24

BAKERSFIELD - Third Quarter, CIF D-I title game, Oak Ridge vs. Long Beach Poly.

Sara James has 20 at the half, looks sensational. Opens the third with a bucket and has 22 as Oak Ridge is up 31-23 on a stunned Poly team.

Carl Bettencourt, steady in the backcourt, has two free throws for a 33-25 lead. Another three for Dakota McLarnan - she has 3 - and Oak Ridge leads 36-29 with 3 minutes to go in third.

Poly playing intense D on Sara James, who had 20 at the half and has 24 through three. Oak Ridge still leads after 3, 38-34...Upset brewing, folks.

March 27, 2010
Oak Ridge leads Long Beach Poly 29-23 at the half in girls state D-I title game in what would be a stunner if score holds up; James has 20.

BAKERSFIELD - Second Quarter, CIF D-I title game, Oak Ridge vs. Long Beach Poly.

Sara James has 9 points early on a variety of shots - drives, pull-ups. She'd like to go watch Stanford play Monday in the NCAA's at Arco, but really, she'd rather go to Disney Land, where the Trojans will go as a group if they beat Poly here.

She just grabbed a long rebound and went coast-to-coast for a bucket, and the foul. Missed the free throw but it's tied 17-17. James has 11. She now has 14 on another driving layup and one, for a 20-17 lead, 2:49 to go second.

Dakota McLarnan hits another 3, Oak Ridge up 23-21. Two James free throws makes it 27-23, Oak Ridge. James scored on a runner and has 20 as Oak Ridge leads 29-23 at the half.

Oak Ridge wants this and can win this if Poly can't figure out a way to contain James.

March 27, 2010
Oak Ridge trails national No. 3 Long Beach Poly by 2 after first in state D-I title game

BAKERSFIELD - First Quarter, CIF Division I title game, Oak Ridge vs. Long Beach Poly.
Yes, they're all teenagers, those from Oak Ridge and those from Long Beach Poly, but the Jackrabbits of SoCal are taller, faster, stronger. Even with knee braces, this is a regal, mobile bunch.

And yet, it's two early three-pointers that stake LB Poly to 10-4 early lead, though Sara James - as she always does - is willing her team to compete with all-around play. Dakota McLarnan's buzzer three pulls the underdog Trojans to within 13-11 after 1.

Here's why Oak Ridge is the underdog: Poly has won four straight state titles and is motivated for a record fifth, and Poly has won 23 straight, and it is ranked higher in the state and national (No. 3 by MaxPreps in both). And SoCal always wins this thing. Sacramento teams are a combined 0-4 in D-I girls title games.

But the Oak Ridge effort is superb early.

March 26, 2010
Add USC to Grant star Moala's football scholarship offer list

By Bill Paterson

Add USC to the long list of suitors interested in Grant's star junior defensive lineman Viliami Moala.

Moala told Gerard Martinez of earlier this week that USC has made him an offer.

"That's the most recent offer I've gotten from a college," Moala told Martinez. "I was so surprised, it actually stopped me from eating my lunch. It was crazy."

Moala's cousin and former Grant star Christian Tupou already is a key player for the Trojans.

"He says it's a great environment - very family oriented," Moala said. "They were down last year, but hopefully they do better this year. I hope they do."

According to, Moala already has received offers from Cal, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State.

The 6-foot-2, 326-pound Moala also has received an invitation to play in the 2011 Army All-American Bowl to be held Jan. 8 in San Antonio, Texas.

Moala attended the Five-star Academy on Saturday in Berkeley.

Among the locals joining him were Granite Bay quarterback Brendan Keeney, Natomas defensive back Jakori Ford, Inderkum defensive tackle Nate Falo and Davis running back Courtney Williams.

Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

March 20, 2010
Oak Ridge is only local basketball team to win a NorCal title out of five clubs, downs powerhouse Berkeley 52-42 in D-I

At last, a local champion.
As four area basketball programs slowly went down in defeat today in CIF Northern California championship games, the last one standing was Oak Ridge.

The Trojans beat traditional super power Berkeley 52-42 tonight at Arco Arena in the Division I title game to save face for the region in general.

Caitlin Welsch scored 19 points and All-American Sara James had 16 and Carly Bettencourt had a big fourth quarter for Oak Ridge, which won its first NorCal championship.

Berkeley was in its 13th NorCal title game and sought to extend its record of wins to 10. It didn't happen, thanks to the poise and balance of the Trojans of El Dorado Hills, who also showed that it's ok for a public school to win a NorCal title as the private schools have cleaned up otherwise.

Next is the state title game next weekend in Bakersfield.

March 20, 2010
St. Francis buzzer-beater beats Woodcreek in NorCal D-II title game

By Bill Paterson

The magical run of Woodcreek's "Cardiac Kids" came to an end today at Arco Arena.

Patrick Crowley's 7-footer at the buzzer lifted second-seeded St. Francis of Mountain View (30-3) to a 48-47 win over the fourth-seeded Timberwolves (28-6) in the CIF Northern Regional Division II boys championship game.

The 6-foot-5 Crowley rebounded a missed shot by teammate Spencer Britschgi from the key as time was running out. Then Crowley threw up an off-balanced shot over the outstretched arms of Woodcreek's 6-foot-11 that cleared the basket as the buzzer sounded.

Fresno State-bound Tyler Johnson led St. Francis with 19 points and Ryan Milat topped Woodcreek with 14. Kurtz added 10 points, nine rebounds and six blocks.

March 20, 2010
O'Dowd beats Sac High boys in D-III NorCal championship game

By Bill Paterson

Brandon Ashley, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, scored 13 points and had 13 rebounds and 6-5 senior Jordan Barton had 14 rebounds, seven blocked shots and six points to lead Bishop O'Dowd to a 57-50 win over Sacramento High in the CIF Northern California D-III boys basketball championship game today at Arco Arena.

Josiah Turner led Sac High with 20 points and Travon Abraham added 17.

Turner's jumper with 2:55 to go put Sacramento ahead 50-49, but O'Dowd's James Thomas made a three-pointer from the right corner with 2:02 to play and Sacramento missed its last eight shots.

Sac High led O'Dowd dominated on the boards, with a 57-28 advantage.
O'Dowd, Cal-Hi's top Northern California team, regardless of division will play Serra of Gardena for the state championship next Saturday in Bakersfield.

March 20, 2010
St. Mary's girls, top ranked in the country, rolls Sacramento in NorCal D-III title game at Arco Arena

The third time was not the charm for Sacramento High School today at Arco Arena.

The Dragons, the top team in Sacramento this high school girls basketball this season, were again run over by the top team in the country in St. Mary's of Stockton, this time in the CIF Northern California Division III finals.

See a photo gallery of the game

The Rams prevailed 70-45 after downing their rivals by 42 and 30 points earlier this campaign, and the latest achievement crowns the team as NorCal champs for the eighth time since 1999.

Prep All-Americans Afure Jemerigbe and Chelsea Gray led a balanced St. Mary's attack with 14 and 12 points, respectively as all five Rams starters reached double figures.

Brittany Shine had 17 points for Sacramento in her final prep showing, and she was typically well balanced with her game and full bore with her drive in trying to topple the Rams.

Fantasia Hilliard and Kyra Dunn scored seven each for the Dragons, who struggled against the Rams' ferocious pressing defense, turning it over 38 times.

March 19, 2010
Del Oro transfer Remi Barry to play in AAU basketball event in Rocklin

Remi Barry, the French national transfer student denied eligibility to play high school basketball by the CIF, will play Saturday when the YBA Dawgs open the Spring AAU competitive basketball season at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin.

The 6-foot-7 Del Oro High School transfer student will play alongside a lineup of Sierra Foothill League players from Nevada Union, Rocklin, Granite Bay and Del Oro. Also included is 6-7 Yuba City star Zach Nelson.

Saturday's tip-off for the Dawgs is 3:30 p.m. against Carson Valley AAU of Minden, Nev., on Court 2 at the Hardwood Palace.

Barry hasn't played in a high school game since February of 2009 in Florida, but worked out with the Golden Eagles all season.

"I'm really excited about playing this weekend," Barry said. "I really would have liked to play high school basketball this year, but AAU is a good substitute since I'll be playing with and against the area's and nation's best players."

Barry did not suit up for the Golden Eagles this season after the CIF ruled his transfer violated its bylaws. Barry's appeal of the CIF ruling was denied by a CIF appeals-panel in January.

Barry and his lawyer then filed for a stay in Placer Superior Court that would have allowed him to play prior to a court hearing on the merit of the CIF's initial denial. The plea for a stay was unsuccessful and Barry was resigned to cheering his teammates from the bench for the remainder of the SFL season and postseason play.

The Dawgs are coached by Millard "Doc" Haynes.

The team will compete in several NCAA-sanctioned tournaments in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Founded in 2004, YBA basketball teaches local youth basketball players the fundamentals of the game in a competitive environment and provides older players with the opportunity to be seen by college coaches and potentially secure scholarships.
Barry is still a highly recruited college prospect despite missing his senior year.

"We're confident YBA will provide Remi and our other seniors with greater exposure to college recruiters and coaches," said YBA Program Director Ken Gee. "These are talented kids who will likely be scholarship players in college next fall."

During the past seasons, several YBA players secured playing commitments and scholarships to Harvard, St. Michael's, St. Mary's and UC Davis among other schools.

Hardwood Palace is located at 1091 Tinker Road in Rocklin.

*Information for this story was provided by Christian Hendricks, who is housing Barry while he attends Del Oro. He is vice president of Interactive Media for the McClatchy Company, owners of the Sacramento Bee.

March 19, 2010
Senior guard Travon Abraham expounds on Sac High basketball

By Bill Paterson

Sacramento High's Travon Abraham is a four-year varsity player and the leader of a Dragons team that is trying to reach the CIF state boys basketball championship game for the second time in three years.

In less than 24 hours (noon Saturday) at Arco Arena, Abraham and his teammates will play Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland for the Northern California Division III championship.

Abraham, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, averages 15.2 points, 3.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Next season he will play for former Cal basketball coach Ben Braun at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Here are some of his thoughts during an impromptu question and answer session on Thursday.

Q: Bishop O'Dowd is the No. 1 ranked team in Northern California, regardless of division. Do you guys see yourselves as underdogs?
A: We're both equal teams. Whoever is most effective on Saturday is going to win. We can't go into this game and change what we do because they pressure us. But we want them to have to change the way they play. Whoever plays out of character is the team that's going to be going home.

Q: Having been to the Sac-Joaquin Section finals six straight years and now making a fourth NorCal title appearance in the last five years, do you feel pressure to have to perform well?
A: We can feel it at times. Sometimes we play better on road games than home games because we feel a little more comfortable. We do get criticized. A good example was the Miramonte game (NorCal quarterfinals). We won by three points (87-84). Everybody - students, parents, players from other schools - came up to us and said, 'We don't want to see that again.' We know there are a lot of people supporting us, so we owe it to them to go out and play well. It's all about pride.

Q: Even though you have played on the varsity for four seasons, do demanding coaches Derek Swafford and top assistant Earl Allen still get after you? Has Swafford ever booted you off the floor or out of the gym for not playing hard enough or smart enough during those renowned intense workouts?
A: I still go through it now. Ever since I signed (NCAA letter of intent), the coaches' expectations got higher. It's like I went back to my freshman year. If I even dress wrong, there's a problem. But I know where Swafford is coming from. He yells a lot, but I don't take it personally because I know he has good intentions. I've gotten kicked off the court, but never kicked out of practice. It was my sophomore year. It was a one-time thing. To me it was a little extreme, but at the next practice I was on my best behavior.

Q: How much did playing for the Dragons factor into your getting a basketball scholarship from Rice?
A: The first game Ben Braun ever saw me play, I was in a Sac High uniform my sophomore year when he still was at Cal. The guard coach (at Rice) who recruited me, recruited me through coach Earl, so I basically got my scholarship through playing high school basketball. I just had to show myself during the AAU season.

Q: You attended Kennedy High School for three months before transferring to Sacramento High your freshman year. Do you think you got a good education at the charter school?
A: When I was at Kennedy, I was in a lot of advanced classes. There, if you were having problems, as far as the teachers were concerned, you were going to have to figure out how to get through it on your own. If you're having problems here, teachers will force you to go into study groups. I think teachers here care for you more and are on you more than when I was at Kennedy.

Q: After you guys beat Vista del Lago for the D-III section title, you mentioned that this team was a lot different that the three previous you played on. You said there was a five-fold improvement in this squad this season. Expand on that?
A: On the teams I played on in the past, we just kind of cruised through the whole year and played at a steady pace. At the beginning of this year we weren't playing nearly as well as we thought we should, even though he had beaten some good teams like Etiwanda and Pasadena. That was during a three-game period where we played extremely well. Then the next two games (losses to Compton and Oakland) we played terrible. Our focus was up and down. So that's when we agreed we needed to re-focus and put all our attention on the basketball season. So we worked harder. And for some reason this is the most running I've ever done. This team gets run more than any other I've been on. I think that's because the players and coaches came to an agreement (in early January) that we weren't happy with where we were at.

March 19, 2010
Sacramento highlights are many during coach Swafford's reign

Under coach Derek Swafford, Sacramento High has developed into the area's dominant boys basketball program.

Here are some of the highlights:

Year by Year record
00-01 - 9-17
01-02 - 19-12
02-03 - 31-3
03-04 - 14-11
04-05 - 29-3
05-06 - 29-6
06-07 - 26-6
07-08 - 30-4
08-09 - 26-7
09-10 - 26-6

Section finals
2003 - D-II: Woodcreek 63, Sacramento 49
2005 - D-III: Sacramento 56, St. Mary's 42
2006 - D-III: St. Mary's 44, Sacramento 38
2007 - D-III: Sacramento 62, Weston Ranch 58
2008 - D-III: El Camino 89, Sacramento 76
2009 - D-III: Sacramento 71, Del Oro 44
2010 - D-III: Sacramento 66, Vista del Lago 55

CIF NorCal finals
2006 - D-III: St. Mary's-Stockton 37, Sacramento 35
2008 - D-III: Sacramento 65, Sacred Heart Cathedral 49
2009 - D-III: Sacred Heart Cathedral 77, Sacramento 65
2010 - D-III: Saramento vs. Bishop O'Dowd-Oakland noon Saturday at Arco.

CIF State championship
2008 - D-III: Santa Margarita-Rancho Santa Margarita 72, Sacramento 55

College players
These former Dragons have played or are now playing basketball in college, according to Swafford:

Demetrius Young (Class of 2004) Stoneybrook University
Jemell Cherry-Swafford (04) Cal Baptist
Issaac Richard (04) Moorehouse
Matt Johnson (05) Northern Arizona
Kevin Galloway (05) Texas Southern
Miguel Smith (05) UC Santa Cruz
Fred Ellis (07) Baylor
Brandon Curtis (07) Modesto Junior College
Cervante' Burrell (07) Seattle University
Bobby Evans (08) Yuba College
Kyle Allen (08) Yuba College
Chase Tapley (09) San Diego State

March 19, 2010
Weight issue is food for thought for Woodcreek's Kurtz, Pinkerton

By Bill Paterson

Woodcreek boys basketball coach Burnel Pinkerton would love to have the problem of his senior center Mike Kurtz.

If the 6-foot-11, 190-pound Kurtz doesn't eat about 4,000 calories a day, he'll lose weight.

"It's a challenge putting on weight," said Kurtz, who will play on scholarship at UC Davis next season. "Because of pure genetics and all the practices and activities, I'd probably have to consume 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day to gain weight."

So while Kurtz can pretty much eat whatever he wants whenever he wants, the 51-year-old Pinkerton gains weight just looking at a celery stick.

He said some friends kidded him after seeing pictures of Pinkerton celebrating with his Woodcreek players after they beat Oakmont in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game March 6 at Arco Arena.

In some of the photos, Pinkerton's pronounced belly is showing.

"I've gotten a lot of crap about it," the affable Pinkerton said. "Some of the comments I heard, 'Why don't you get a longer shirt.'"

Pinkerton admits to be a little sensitive about his bulk. He is a bachelor who doesn't eat right to begin with, especially during basketball season.

He's also been hobbling about on two bad knees, the result of his playing days at the College of the Redwoods. These days he can't get up and down the court, even in slow motion.

Pinkerton has had five surgeries on his right knee and three on his left.

He is scheduled to have another surgery on his left knee on Tuesday, although he says he'll cancel if the Timberwolves reach the CIF state finals. Fourth-seeded Woodcreek (28-5) is playing second-seeded St. Francis (29-3) in the Northern California D-II championship 4 p.m. Saturday at Arco Arena.

"I need to have it done," Pinkerton said. "I'm starting to get to the point where I can't feel my quad in my left leg, and I lose feeling in my arm. My knees hurt all the time.

"I can't stand for long periods of time. Sometimes I have to tell the guys in practice that it's not that I don't care, but I have to sit down."

March 15, 2010
Catching up with Sacramento High's dazzling dynamo senior guard Brittany Shine

One of the joys of high school basketball this season has been the overall play of Brittany Shine, the superbly talented Sacramento High Senior guard headed to Florida on scholarship.

She can take over games with her dribble, her driving, her shooting, defense and leadership, and she carried her team in key stretches to win two NorCal Division III games to set up a rematch with national No. 1 St. Mary's of Stockton for the state championship.

Shine talks about her senior season, her teammates, why she chose the Gators, her friendship with Chelsea Gray of St. Mary's and why she's an ideal fit as a Dragon. Footage provided by my trusty sidekick/partner Cameron, otherwise known as The Bee's JOCK - Junior Observer Cameron, Know-it-all.

JOCK also shot some 1-on-1 footage of Shine and me, and wow, did I feel old and worn out within a half minute. JOCK's point of view can be read on his blog here

The great thing about Shine is how she heaps praise on her teammates and friends - Kyra Dunn, Katrina Salinas and so many others. She keeps in regular contact with other players chasing similar state-title dreams, including Sara James of Oak Ridge (they texted each other Sunday, frustrated that they missed late free throws but thrilled that they won the games in the closing seconds).

Here is the interview:

March 15, 2010
A video greet, meet and chat with Sacramento High School's Josiah Turner

We stopped by practice at Sacramento High School to catch up to coach Derek Swafford and the Dragons, including standout junior guard and national recruit Josiah Turner.

I interviewed Turner, averaging 29 points and blistering hot in the playoffs, and my trusty assistant/sidekick Cameron shot the video. He goes by JOCK - Junior Observer, Cameron-Know-it-all.

Turner talked about his teammates, his recruiting interest, how he can still improve his game, why he left Cordova and why he flirted briefly with Sheldon earlier this academic year - and why he is a natural fit to be a Dragon.

Also read JOCK's point of view on his blog here

Here is the interview:

March 15, 2010
Ex-Sac High star Tapley among locals in March Madness

Sac-Joaquin Section Communications director Will DeBoard notes that a number of former section boys high school stars will compete in March Madness.

They include:

• CHASE TAPLEY, San Diego State. Tapley led the Dragons to two Sac-Joaquin Section titles and one NorCal title. True freshman is averaging 7.8 points a game for the Aztecs.

• NATE GARTH, New Mexico (Capital Christian). Garth played his freshman and sophomore years at Capital Christian before moving out of state. The sophomore is averaging 4.2 points and 1.7 assists a game for the Lobos.

• TERRENCE JENNINGS, Louisville (Capital Christian). Jennings spent his junior year at Capital Christian in the 2004-05 season, where he averaged 17 points a game in leading the Cougars to the SJS D-V championship game. He's a sophomore at Louisville, where he's averaging 5.2 points a game.

• FRED ELLIS, Baylor (Sacramento). Was part of SJS D-III championship team in 2007 and SJS runner-up team in 2006. Redshirt sophomore is averaging 1.3 points a game for the Bears.

• WAYNE HUNTER, St. Mary's College (Valley). Hunter led Valley to the SJS D-II championship his senior year in 2004. Went to a prep school after that then on to St. Mary's. The redshirt senior averaged 11 points a game in the Gaels' first seven games before he tore his ACL, ending his season.

• ELSTON TURNER, Washington (Roseville). Turner spent three high-scoring years at Roseville High before moving to Houston. The sophomore is averaging 5.1 points a game for the Huskies.

March 15, 2010
A video view of the Sacramento Dragons in high school boys hoops

Here's a look at the Sacramento High School boys basketball team during its Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship victory over Vista del Lago.

Top Dragons players include Josiah Turner and Will Davis. Here are the highlights captured and edited by JOCK:

March 14, 2010
Shine, Sacramento High defense too much for O'Dowd girls

By Bill Paterson

Brittany Shine's brilliant performance Saturday night in Sacramento's 50-48 win over visiting Bishop O'Dowd in the CIF Northern California D-III regional semifinals is even more impressive when one considers she played every minute.

Yet the 5-foot-10 senior guard never seemed to lose any energy. She scored 15 first-half points. And even after O'Dowd's athletic defense, featuring three Division I college recruits, tried to tighten the screws on her, she produced.

Shine had 10 fourth-quarter points, including the spectacular winning three-point shot with 46 seconds.

But she also was all over the boards, forcing turnovers, making assists and getting defensive stops.

"We had to leave everything on the floor," Shine said. "That's what conditioning is for, why I work on my stamina all year long."

Said Massari: "I think Brittany Shine proved why she should be the Player of the Year."

Shine, who will play next season at Florida on scholarship, had to carry the team offensively because O'Dowd's athletic defenders wouldn't allow long-range shooter Katrina Salinas to get any decent looks. The senior guard shot just three times, making a three-pointer.

Kyra Dunn, Sacramento's 6-3 shot blocker, chipped in 11 points on four-of-five shooting but sat for nearly seven minutes in the second half because of foul trouble.

"Kyra was awesome, Kyra came to play," Massari said.

The defensive effort was a collective affair with Shine, Dunn, Salinas, Krashawna Douglas, Fantasia Hilliard, Jasmine Ware and 5-1 Bre'ana Williams constantly flying toward O'Dowd ballhandlers and shooters. No doubt the energy from a huge crowd, the Sacramento High boys counterparts looking on before playing Center in the D-III boys semifinals and that none of the girls have ever lost on their home court, added some emotional fuel.

"Without my teammates, we wouldn't have gotten it done," Shine said. "Kyra was huge on getting rebounds and coach Michele coached her butt off."

Sacramento forced O'Dowd into 16 first-half turnovers, then made the Oakland bunch earn their shots in the second half by allowing nothing easy.

O'Dowd was 15 of 45 from the field (33 percent) and 15 of 26 from the foul line. Sac High, with Shine making 11 of 18, shot an impressive 20 of 38 (53 percent) and five of nine from the foul line.

"That's what is great about this team," Massari said between hugs from players and fans. "It's not just one person. A lot of people thought that at the beginning of the season, when we lost a player (Arizona State-bound Erica Barnes, who suddenly transferred to Rosemont High School), we wouldn't get here. I'm so proud of these girls."

Even though the first two games were one-sided, Sacramento wants one more shot at St. Mary's of Stockton, its D-III, dribble, drive section rivals who are ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today.

The two will play Saturday morning at Arco Arena.

"We've got to get it done," Shine said. "It's our last chance."

March 14, 2010
Woodcreek overcomes blown tire, late nine-point deficit to beat Mitty in overtime

Woodcreek overcame a lousy seed, a blown tire on its van en route to San Jose and a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat top-seeded Archbishop Mitty 91-83 in overtime earlier tonight in the California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Division II regional semifinals.

The win moves fourth-seeded Woodcreek into Saturday's D-II championship game against second-seeded St. Francis of Mountain View, a 53-39 winner over Oakmont.

According to Dennis Knight of the San Jose Mercury News, Woodcreek trailed Mitty by nine points with three minutes left, before going on a 10-0 run to take a 73-72 lead with just under a minute left.

After a free throw, Stephen Meade's steal and layup put Mitty ahead 75-73 with 18 seconds before Ryan Milat forced overtime with a drive with five seconds remaining. Woodcreek outscored the Monarchs 16-8 in overtime.

Nik Milani played a key role in the comeback, scoring eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Mike Kurtz had 19 points and Milat finished with 15. Meade had 32 points for Mitty.

Kurt Johnson of the Roseville Press-Tribune reported that Woodcreek's team van blew a tire on the way to the game, but that coach Burnel Pinkerton and the seven players on board weren't injured.

Although Woodcreek (28-5) had the better record, Mitty, which finishes with 10 losses, was given the No. 1 seed for the NorCals based on its upset win of St. Francis in the Central Coast Section championship game.

St. Francis will make its second straight appearance in the D-II finale. The Troubadours lost last season to Rocklin.

March 12, 2010
Area boys basketball teams play well on road in NorCal quarterfinals

Bill Paterson

Area boys basketball teams proved to be true road warriors in Thursday night's CIF Northern California Regional playoffs.

Here's a short recap:

• Center 68, Enterprise 55 in Redding - Although far from home, the Cougars (28-3) stung the third-seeded Hornets in the D-III quarterfinal by shooting 64 percent from the field (29-for-46), including 9-for-11 in the first quarter. Elliot Herald led Center with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but the story was the offensive resurgence of 6-foot-8 Connor Haysbert. Limited to 11 points in Center's two previous games, Haysbert scored 19 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from the foul line. Center will play at Sac High Saturday night.

• Sheldon 59, Bellarmine 57 in San Jose - Darius Nelson, fresh off his 49-point performance in a double overtime win against Castro Valley on Tuesday, had 26 points as the Huskies (28-5) upset the second-seeded Bells in the D-I quarterfinal. Sheldon plays Saturday at Newark Memorial.

• Oakmont 57, Redwood 45 in Larkspur - The Vikings (24-7) jumped all over the Giants in the D-II quarterfinal game in taking an 18-4 first-quarter lead, then fighting off a comeback attempt that saw the host team close to within 36-34 with 3:38 left to go in the third quarter. But Oakmont sealed it with an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter. Tony Gill topped Oakmont with a game-high 19 points. Oakmont plays Saturday at second-seeded St. Francis in Mountain View.

• St. Francis 75, Rocklin 72 in Mountain View - Tyler Johnson sank two free throws with nine seconds as the second-seeded Lancers held off the Thunder (22-10) in a re-match of last season's NorCal D-II finalists, won by Rocklin. Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said the difference was his team's failure at the foul line. The Thunder made only 14 of 24 attempts. St. Francis was 18 of 23. "That being said, we were ahead 'til late, and they made a couple of shots and we missed a couple of shots in the last three minutes," Taylor said.

• St. Mary's 67, Colfax 54 in Berkeley - The Falcons (27-6) kept it close until midway through the final quarter against the D-IV top seeds.

March 11, 2010
Victory Preseason Tournament of Champions

A local tradition of over 20 years continues this weekend as the Victory Preseason Tournament of Champions softball tournament, which began today, will be contested at three sites regionwide.

48 varsity softball programs from across the capital region, as far south as San Bernardino and northwest as Reno and Carson City, Nevada, will be playing at Sacramento Softball Complex and Freedom Park at McClellan Air Force base.

32 junior varsity teams will be competing at the softball complex at Elk Grove Regional Park.

Pool play continues today with championship bracket play on Saturday.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students ages 10-17 and seniors 55 and up, while kids 10 and under are admitted free.

March 9, 2010
Oakmont-Woodcreek boys hoops Arco rematch not out of the question

By Bill Paterson

It's conceivable that the Oakmont and Woodcreek boys basketball teams could meet for a fifth time this season in the CIF Northern California Division II championship game on March 20 at Arco Arena.

Oakmont, which plays host to Montgomery of Santa Rosa tonight, lost at the buzzer 45-44 to league rival Woodcreek in Saturday's D-II Sac-Joaquin section final at Arco.
It was the fourth time Woodcreek beat its Roseville rivals this season.

When the subject of a possible NorCal title showdown was broached after the heartbreaking loss in which the Vikings led most of the game, Oakmont coach Rick Campbell said, "Wouldn't that be fun."

Campbell and Woodcreek coach Burnel Pinkerton are close friends and the players on both teams are friendly rivals.

"We really wanted to win, but I am also really happy for Burnel," Campbell said after the game in the Arco tunnel. "We root for each other, and if I was going to lose this game, I would want it to be to him."

But four defeats is hard to swallow even among friends.

"I told Burnel that my folks were upset with him," Campbell said jokingly. "So he can't come over to dinner for awhile."

March 9, 2010
Coach says Center will be ready in what is wide-open D-III boys NorCal field

By Bill Paterson

Even though his Center High School players were dejected for several days after their triple overtime loss to Vista del Lago in the boys Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals Wednesday at Cosumnes River College, coach Ray Gagnon thinks his guys will be ready to play tonight.

The Cougars (26-3) are playing Analy of Sebastopol (29-2) in tonight's California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Regional playoff opener at Antelope High School.

"It took us a little time to get going," Gagnon said. "The first thing we started working on is making sure the kids were re-focused and feeling good about themselves.

"There was not a dry eye among the starters after that game. They really expected to win.

"So we told them, 'We can see from your reactions that it really hurt. But it's supposed to hurt. You work your butts off all the time, so it shows how much you care.'"

Gagnon said three of his starters cramped up during the game, and a fourth did so at home later that night. Connor Haysbert, the Cougars' 6-foot-8 center, was in a lot of pain because of a tender ankle he sprained just before the end of the playoffs.

Gagnon played essentially six players, although a seventh made a brief appearance of "less than a minute" before halftime.

"It was incredible what they did," Gagnon said. "That's why I think we'll be ready. We don't want our last memory to be that we lost our last two games."

Gagnon feels his team has as good a chance as any to play March 20 in the NorCal D-III championship game at Arco Arena.

Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland (27-3) is the favorite, but Gagnon saw the Dragons play Miramonte of Orinda in the North Coast Section final on Friday and the Dragons, in winning 60-50, didn't look like the No. 1 team in Northern California, as they are ranked this week by Cal-Hi Sports and

"I was told by one writer that they played their C game, not their A game," Gagnon said.

He also saw defending D-III Northern California champion Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco (14-14) beat Burlingame for the Central Coast Section title on Saturday.

Good teams both, but not overwhelming.

He thinks his team, No. 2 seeded Sacramento and No. 4 seed Vista del Lago are all in the mix.

"Anybody can lose on any night in D-III," Gagnon said. "I'm terrified if we win (tonight) because we have to go up to Enterprise (of Redding) on Thursday. That's a three-hour drive."

But if Center beats Analy and No. 3 seeded Enterprise and the bracket plays out otherwise, Center could be back home on Saturday playing at Sac High.

"It will be a challenge but at this point the bottom line is that there are only going to be five teams in the entire state that will finish the season on a winning note," Gagnon said.

March 7, 2010
Sacramento area draws three No. 2 seeds on NorCal hoops girls/boys playoffs

A look at the local teams in the Northern California Regional basketball playoffs that start Tuesday at home sites (with home sites also on Thursday and Saturday and the NorCal finals set for March 20 at Arco for Divisions I, II, III and D-IV and V at Folsom High School):
Local matchups (for complete brackets see
All games 7 p.m, unless noted

Division I
No. 13 Skyline at No. 4 Kennedy
No. 9 Heritage at No. 8 McClatchy
No. 14 Franklin at No. No. 3 Deer Valley
Bye: No. 2 Oak Ridge

Division II
No. 9 Bella Vista at No. No. 8 Dublin
No. 11 Woodcreek at No. 6 Chico (6 p.m.)
No. 10 Montgomery at No. 7 St. Francis

Division III
No. 12 Del Oro at No. Daugherty Valley
Bye: No. 2 Sacramento

Division IV
No. 9 Christian Brothers at No. 8 Mercy
No. 11 Colfax at No. 6 Central Valley

Division V
No. 12 Sacramento Waldorf at No. 5 Durham
Bye: No. 2 Bradshaw Christian

Division I
No. 10 Castro Valley at No. 7 Sheldon
No. 9 Oakland at No. 8 Franklin

Division II
No. 11 Montgomery at No. 6 Oakmont
No. 10 Rocklin at No. 7 Pleasant Valley
Bye: No. 4 Woodcreek

Division III
No. 11 Analy vs. No. 6 Center, location TBA
Bye: No. 2 Sacrarmento; No. 4 Vista del Lago.

Division IV
No. 9 Colfax at No. 8 Sutter
No. 10 Capital Christian vs. No. 7 Mission, at Kezar

Division V
No. 12 Head Royce at No. 5 Victory Christian
No. 9 Bradshaw Christian at No. 8 Pinewood

March 6, 2010
Nelson's 29 points leads Sheldon to D-I section boys title

By Bill Paterson

The wide smile on the face of Darius Nelson told the whole story.

The Sheldon High School junior did tonight what his more celebrated older brother, DeMarcus, couldn't do - lead his team to a Sac-Joaquin Section championship.

The 6-foot-6 forward scored 29 points in leading sixth-seeded Sheldon to a 78-72 win over top-seeded Franklin of Elk Grove in the Division I boys final.

DeMarcus Nelson, California's all-time scoring leader, had to settle for a runner-up finish in the 2004 D-I final when the Huskies were upset 63-61 by Kennedy at Arco.

Freshman D'Erryl Williams added 18 points and seven rebounds and 6-8 junior Ramon Eaton 13 points and 13 rebounds for Sheldon.

Anthony King led Franklin with 20 points while Chuk Iroegbu had 18 points and 12 rebounds, freshman Ikenna Iroegbu 14 points and Michael Rosaroso 12 points.

The two teams will advance to the expanded California Interscholastic Federation Northern California regional playoffs that will start on Tuesday at home sites.

Seedings will be announced Sunday.

March 6, 2010
Oak Ridge topples Kennedy in girls D-I final; Sara James leads second-half surge

Playing in a Division I field it had heard about and read about and even observed from afar, Oak Ridge High School not only tested the large school waters for the first time in girls basketball, it left a sizable wake.

The top-seeded Trojans of El Dorado outlasted two-time defending champion Kennedy, seeded third, 64-50 in the Sac-Joaquin Section championship tonight at Arco Arena.

Oak Ridge rolled to the D-II title a year ago and coach Steve White now has three section titles, with the others coming in 2003 in D-III and last season.

Testament to Oak Ridge's overall balance and talent is the fact that prep All-American Sara James was shutout in the first half, missing five shots and turning it over three times against a defense geared to contain her. But Oak Ridge still led 26-21 at the half, thanks to defense and the hot hand of Caitlin Welsch, who scored 15 of her team's first 22 points and had 17 total and seven rebounds.

But to understand James, the superb senior wing headed to Stanford, is to understand her competitive drive. She scored 12 in the third, on spin moves and three-pointers and finished with 15.

What's more, she inched up the all-time section playoff career scoring list with a late free throw. Her 291 career section playoff points moved her into third place behind all-time section greats Kellie Cook of Nevada Union (graduated in 1991) and Jackie Germelos of St. Mary's (2006).

And it was James who carried the section banner off the Arco floor, her second in a decorated four-year career that now includes four trips to the NorCal regional tournament.

Carly Bettencourt and Natalie Jones had 12 each for Oak Ridge, and Leslie Leong led Kennedy with 20.

March 6, 2010
Woodcreek holds off rival Oakmont in spirited D-II title game at Arco Arena

It's never easy to beat a rival once in a single season, or twice. Or three times, even.

How about four?

That was the daunting task at hand for second-seeded Woodcreek High School as it faced cross-town Roseville rival and No. 4 Oakmont tonight in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game at Arco Arena.

Trailing 10-0 early, 12-2 after the first quarter and 14-2 a moment later, the Timberwolves scratched and bruised their way back into it, thanks to defense and three fourth-quarter three-pointers by senior guard and leading scorer Nik Milani to prevail 45-44 and set off a celebration scene.

The euphoria was highlighted by coach Burnel Pinkerton, a former Oakmont assistant coach to Gary Donnell, who led the Vikings to section glory in the 1990s. Pinkerton is close friends with Oakmont coach Rick Campbell, and the two embraced before and after the game. The moment this one ended, Pinkerton pumped his fist several times, then hugged players, then pumped some more.

There was reason for the joy. Woodcreek won the toughest conference in the section, the Sierra Foothill League, then impressed in the early rounds of the playoffs and down the stretch tonight.

Milani had 16 points, and UC Davis-bound center Mike Kurtz had 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Nik Stathopoulos added 11 points and two steals for Woodcreek.

Alex Ford led Oakmont with 15 and Tony Gill had 12, but the tough senior wanted at least two more. He made a free throw with 10.7 seconds left to cut Woodcreek's lead to 45-43, and after Kurtz missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Gill missed a top-of-the-key shot to tie at the buzzer as the Black Mob rooting section of Woodcreek erupted.

Woodcreek's student throng dueled with the white-shirt clad Oakmont "O-Zone", giving Arco the best 1-2 rooting section punch of the weekend.

Both teams advance to the expanded Northern California regional playoffs that start Tuesday.

Woodcreek won a section title under coach Paul Hayes in 2003 then tailed off, missing the playoffs in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Oakmont won its only section hoops crown in 1994 and was a runner-up in 1999 and 2000. The Vikings had not won a playoff game entering this postseason in nine seasons, missing the post season in five of the past six years.

March 6, 2010
Modesto Christian boys claim 11th straight section hoops title with win over Colfax

Isaiah Burse led all scorers with 29 in leading Modesto Christian to its 11th straight section title with a 88-80 win over Colfax in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game on Saturday afternoon at Arco Arena.

Chase Mosier had 21 points to pace the Falcons, who were seeking their fourth D-IV section title. The Falcons had five players in double figures, including Mosier, Justin Witt (17), Ryan Salmonson (16), Joey Jergo (10) and Kyle Greer (10).

Both schools will open California Interscholastic Federation NorCal tournament play on Tuesday.

March 6, 2010
Vallejo upsets top-seeded St. Francis in D-II girls basketball final

By Bill Paterson

Senior guard Ashley Moore scored 32 points, including the winning free throw with 40.8 seconds, to lead third-seeded Vallejo (25-6) past St. Francis (22-8) 67-64 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II girls championship game today at Arco Arena.

The athletic and emotional Moore finished the four-game section playoffs with 116 points, only the fourth female in history to accomplish the feat of scoring 100 or more points in a playoff season.

St. Francis, trying to win its third D-II championship in four years, trailed 34-27 at halftime but opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run to take a 39-34 lead.

Vallejo fought back as the game was tied seven times in the second half.

St. Francis' 5-6 junior guard Jolise Limcaco, who led the the Troubadours with 23 points and nine rebounds, gave her team a 64-61 lead with 2:44 to play when she hit her fifth three-pointer.

But Vallejo scored the last six points and St. Francis missed its last four shots.

Briana Charles added 12 points and Aurora Singh, one of only two seniors on St. Francis' 19-player roster, had 11.

March 6, 2010
Lopsided defeat can't dampen Argonaut's spirits

This one was over at the half.

The Argonaut High School girls basketball team, owner of a 30-0 record entering Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game, was simply over-matched in its first-ever championship game against mighty Modesto Christian.

"We came here to win," said Argonaut senior forward Lauren Godde, who led the team in scoring with 18 points on Saturday. "We knew it would take our best game ... but we thought we could."

Those dreams evaporated quickly when the Crusaders led 18-3 after one quarter and showed no signs of slowing. Modesto Christian went on to win its fourth section title 64-39.

Argonaut players were still in high spirits though as the Mustangs will make their first appearance in the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal playoffs on Tuesday

While Modesto Christian is one of three private schools in town and seven overall, Argonaut may as well have been wearing "Jackson" across the front its jerseys as it was playing for something more than a title -- town pride.

And so in the final seconds, after the Mustangs battled and scraped for 32 minutes hundreds of green and gold clad Argonaut backers rose and gave their team a standing ovation worthy of a champion.

"I think that was pretty cool," Godde said. "That's half our town out there.

"They've been with us every step of the way."

March 6, 2010
Turlock Christian runs into D-V's new dynasty -- Bradshaw Christian

Here's a nice read about Bradshaw Christian from one of our colleagues in the south area of the section

By Richard T. Estrada

SACRAMENTO -- There's a new dynasty dominating Division 5 girls' basketball in the Sac-Joaquin Section, and Turlock Christian ran into it.

When the section promoted Modesto Christian's potent program to D-4 two years ago, it felt the move would make the postseason more competitive for the smallest schools.

A nice idea, had it worked.

Bradshaw Christian, replicating the template MC used earlier this decade, has filled that power vacuum and become just as overwhelming.

"They're quick, their inside game is strong and they shoot well," said Molly Farrar, noting just a few of Bradshaw's strengths. "I think we got a little psyched out by them."

Bradshaw had plenty to do with that, using a 22-3 second-quarter on its way to a 67-25 victory over TC in Friday's D-5 title game at Arco Arena.

It was Bradshaw's third consecutive title (MC won two in a row before going D-4 to face larger schools) and completed an impressive playoff run.

Pressure "D," 3-point shooting and Cheyenne Williams -- a 6-1 transfer off to the University of San Diego -- put the Pride ahead of the pack.

Bradshaw (22-8) had beaten its first three playoff foes by an average score of 80-20, so No. seed TC (26-5) came closer than anyone to an upset.

Perhaps that's why the Eagles are eager for a rematch in next year's section final.

"We have four starters back and good kids are coming up from Sally Wright's JV team, so we're heading in the right direction," said TC coach Edwin Santiago, whose school's last section final was in 1988.

Farrar, a 5-foot-9 swing player, should be joined again by 6-2 Marly Burton, 6-foot Kaisa Spycher and 5-9 Halie Bergman -- a freshman averaging 24 points a game before tearing an ACL in early January.

The good news for TC is its season isn't over. The Eagles are in the NorCal playoffs with Bradshaw Christian.

Pairings and home sites are going to be announced Sunday.

It's going to take a dedicated offseason for the Eagles to approach Bradshaw's caliber -- and Santiago says it all begins in April with travel ball.

"We had 27 games last year and we hope to play at least as many this year," said Santiago, who will take the team to tournaments in the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe. "We're going to work hard on defending off the screen, and I think by doing that, we'll become a better team at using screens."

That was a struggle against Bradshaw, as the Eagles rarely got an open look at the basket. The Pride was more than quick enough to stay with the shooters, and the screens did not provide much of an obstacle for an aggressive defense.

That's part of the reason TC shot 17 percent (8 of 47) and scored a season-low 25 points.

Only once had TC been held under 48 -- a 35-point effort in a loss to Le Grand. It had won eight in a row after that loss, a streak that ended Friday.

While Spycher and Burton work on their inside games in travel ball, TC's guards need to get accustomed to the trey and improve their accuracy from the 14- to 17-foot range.

TC was good for 64 points a game despite shooting just 38 percent from the floor, giving Santiago and his girls motivation to get busy in the gym.

The return of Bergman also will help. She provides another scorer, ballhandler and defender -- and a level of confidence that can't be replaced.

She would have made it closer, but Bradshaw's Williams (nine points, nine boards) and Ashlee Jones (20 points, eight boards) were just too fast and talented for TC to contain.

March 6, 2010
Victory Christian boys section title push started a decade ago

By Bill Paterson

The seeds of Victory Christian's 68-64 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V boys overtime basketball championship win against Ripon Christian Friday at Arco Arena were planted a decade ago.

That's when the core group of seniors was in the third grade at the K-through-12 Carmichael private school. Coaching dads Lane Boolen and Gary Halverson would point to the banner hanging in the gym.

It was the D-V section boys basketball championship banner from the 2001 season, the only boys title in that sport in school history.

"We'd point at it and tell the kids, 'Hey guys that's something to shoot for,'" said Boolen, now a Vikings assistant. "We saw the potential back then. Others would join as we worked with them through elementary school, junior high and into high school."

Even though one of the best athletes would wind up at another school starring in a different sport, the Victory Christian kids kept getting better through the countless games played in and around the Carmichael area.

"Ryan Dimino played with us in third and fourth grade," Boolen said of the Del Campo football star and Bee Player of the Year this past season. "A lot of our kids know Ryan. But that's how it is. Our kids know kids from all over the place because they play a lot of ball."

They played some very good ball on Friday, sparked by a surprisingly large rooting section considering the high school has an enrollment of fewer than 200 students. They turned aside an opponent with a rich basketball history that also had beaten them by 21 points earlier in the season.

Behind the Coppernoll brothers, Nathan and Clayton, Victory Christian outscored the Knights 7-3 in overtime to get a new upgrade banner for the gym.

Nathan Coppernoll, a 6-3 senior forward, had a game-high 21 points, including the game's last basket in regulation, scoring on a driving layup that tied it 61-61 with 31 seconds to play.

A Ripon Christian turnover with 11.4 seconds and a failure by Victory Christian to get off a shot before the buzzer extended the game an extra four minutes.

Sophomore 5-11 Clayton Coppernoll, known as a stout defender, hit three critical three-pointers, two in the fourth quarter and the overtime dagger that put them up by the final 68-64 score. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds.

Seniors Johnny Coburn and Brad Hoffelt had 12 points and 6-7 Ethan Boolen, Lane's son, added eight points and two blocked shots for the top-seeded Vikings (27-3).

Second-seeded Ripon Christian (22-7) has won nine boys section titles and two California Interscholastic Federation state championships.

The Knights also have one of the top big men among small-school programs in 6-foot-8, 255-pound Tyler Goslinga, who dominated the Vikings in their previous meeting Dec. 22. The senior center scored 29 points as the Knights coasted to a 64-43 home win.

Goslinga was held to 15 this time, a key to the victory according to Victory Christian coach Bob Grexton.

"What we knew tonight is we had to take away Goslinga in the middle," Grexton said. "We felt if we controlled the middle, we could control the basketball game."

Grexton had his guards, who normally extend out and apply pressure on the perimeter, sag and help the slightly built Boolen defend the stout Goslinga.

"I got lots of help inside," said Boolen, giving nearly 80 pounds to his rival post. "I think their guards began expecting us to be there."

Goslinga took only 13 shots -- he made 12 in the first game -- and was held scoreless during the final nine minutes.

"They kept passing the ball around the outside and their big guy was trying to get open inside," Boolen said. "We felt if we made them shoot threes, that would be the best for us."

Grexton said the one-sided loss in December only fueled his guys to buy into the plan.

"What's to lose?" he said. "Just go out and play hard. That's one of the things about this team, They never quit. If (we trail), it's not insurmountable."

Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said his team simply ran out of gas.

"Fatigue was as much of a factor as anything because we don't have a lot of depth," said Vander Molen, who used seven players (Victory Christian played eight). "When you're tired, you don't think as straight."

Ethan Boolen said it was easy to understand why a group that Grexton considers overachievers could beat a team with more size and arguably more talent.

"It's a brotherhood," he said. "We trust each other. We believe in each other."

Nathan Coppernoll said Grexton pulled out all stops to motivate them by touting Ripon Christian's greatness (only Modesto Christian has won more boys section basketball titles).

"Before the game he came into the locker room and said how much basketball tradition Ripon Christian had," Nathan Coppernoll said. "How many section championships, how many NorCal championships and how many state championships they had won.

"So we knew we had to come out and play hard and play aggressively to prove we belonged."

The Vikings did.

Now they will move on the California Interscholastic Federation Northern California Regionals that start on Tuesday at home sites. Victory Christian will learn Sunday who they will play in the opener.

• The Modesto Bee's Richard T. Estrada contributed to this report

March 6, 2010
Unsung senior's monster game helps Sac High repeat as D-III boys champion

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

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."

March 5, 2010
Woodcreek earns rare win in beating Rocklin in D-II boys semifinal

By Bill Paterson

For years, Woodcreek felt like the little brother who always saw big brother Rocklin get the last piece of pie.

None of the Woodcreek players could remember beating Rocklin until Jan. 5, when the Timberwolves out-ran the visiting Thunder 93-81 in the first Sierra Foothill League go-around of the season between the two schools, snapping a nine-game losing streak spanning five years.

But that win was tempered by a 68-61 loss at Rocklin Jan. 29.

On Thursday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals at Arco Arena, Woodcreek outdueled the Thunder for the final piece of the pie.

The second-seeded Timberwolves beat the defending D-II section champions 71-64, despite a brilliant 37-point performance by Rocklin senior guard Cody Kale. Woodcreek will play Oakmont in an all-Sierra Foothill League D-II final 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Arco.

"We've been playing against these guys since the seventh grade," said Woodcreek senior guard-forward Nik Milani, a three-year varsity player. "We've never beaten them. So that makes this victory that much better."

Milani and Mike Kurtz finished with 16 points each, with Kurtz connecting on 8-of-8 free throws (our newspaper account today incorrectly credits the 6-foot-11 senior with 10-of-10) in the fourth quarter. Derek Anganes scored 11 points and Ryan Milat had 10. Tony Williams had 10 points for Rocklin.

Woodcreek will try to become the school's second boys basketball section titlist.

The Timberwolves, in winning the D-II section championship in 2003, went all the way to the California Interscholastic Federation state championship game that season. They lost to Mater Dei of Santa Ana.

March 5, 2010
Oakmont's buzzer beater sets up an All-SFL D-II boys basketball final

By Bill Paterson

Right place, right time.

That's the way J.T. Adenrele figured it after scoring the two most important points of his life.

The 6-foot-6 junior scored the game-winning basket as time expired in fourth-seeded Oakmont's 56-54 upset of top-seeded Fairfield in Thursday night's electrifying Sac-Joaquin Section Division II boys basketball semifinal at Arco Arena.

The win sets up an all-Sierra Foothill League championship game on Saturday in which the Vikings (22-6) will play second-seeded Woodcreek (25-5) at 4:30 p.m. at the home of the Sacramento Kings. Woodcreek beat another SFL team, defending D-II section champion Rocklin 71-64 in the other semifinal.

But the tightly contested, emotional Oakmont-Fairfield game proved to be the best of the night, which included two not-so-bad Division I semifinals earlier won by Sheldon and Franklin of Elk Grove, respectively.

Adenrele, who sat more than 11 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, made his team's final four points. His two free throws with 21.8 seconds gave Oakmont a brief 54-52 lead. Fairfield's Tramayne Bondurant, virtually unstoppable in the fourth quarter en route to a game-high 27 points, made a reverse layup with 10.1 seconds to tie.

Then Alex Ford inbounded to Fred Mobley, who passed to Nathaniel Grady. Grady passed back to Mobley, who found Tony Gill on the left side. His 18-footer missed, but Ford rebounded. His hurried shot glanced off the rim. Adenrele, less than an inch from the rim, tipped in the miss as the buzzer sounded.

A big-screen replay showed 0.2 seconds on the clock when Adenrele tipped in the ball.

"At first, I didn't think I got it in time," Adenrele said. "But after I saw the replay, I knew it was good.

"I'm ecstatic. I don't know how to react right now. I thought Alex was going to tip it in, I just felt fortunate to be right there to make the play."

Oakmont coach Rick Campbell said Ford, a 6-2 guard deserved kudos for making a huge play in the final 10 chaotic seconds.

"That was the key, Alex going and getting it and keeping it alive, even if it didn't go in," Campbell said.

"I wasn't going to take a time out at that point and let them set up their defense. We were going to push it up the floor and see how things wound down. They wound up in our favor."

Gill, Oakmont's 6-foot-8 senior captain, was marvelous.

He scored 20 points -- missing only two shots from the field - grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.

"Tony Gill, what can I say?" Campbell said. "He hits big shots, makes the big free throws and helps us break pressure. He does a little bit of everything."

But Gill said his performance was only a small part of a monumental experience for players from both teams.

"This is something we'll all remember," Gill said. "The atmosphere was crazy, especially in the last eight minutes.

"Give credit to Fairfield. They're a wonderful team, so well coached, and those guys never give up. But our guys responded to everything."

Campbell agreed playing in the SFL and having senior leadership prepared his team for a postseason run that also included wins over Bear Creek and Jesuit.

"That three of the final four (in D-II) were from the SFL shows the strength of our league," Campbell said. "Where ever you go, whether its Woodcreek, Rocklin, Del Oro or Granite Bay, every game is a big game.

"Then there's the senior leadership. Tony's calm demeanor sets the tone and we kind of go as he goes. It's our team demeanor never to get too high or too low."

A key to the victory, Campbell said, was the play of little used junior guard Cholo Serrano. With Mobley, the team's top ballhandler, getting three first-half fouls, Serrano played 12 minutes and scored four points and grabbed two rebounds.

"He gave us a lift," Campbell said. "Being on this stage is something he'll remember."

Oakmont will be back on the big stage Saturday.

And the Vikings will be playing their Roseville rivals, who not only beat them out for the Sierra Foothill League title but have handed them three of their six losses this season.

"All along I've believed that Woodcreek is the best team in the section," Campbell said. "I've seen pretty much everyone at this point. They're deep, they have size, they have shooters. They've got everything."

Oakmont lost to Woodcreek 71-62 in the championship game of the Casa Roble tournament in December and 64-57 at Woodcreek in the first league game Jan. 14.

But what still hurts is their 70-45 home-court loss to the Timberwolves on senior night Feb. 10.

"We want some redemption," Gill said.

While a win would be nice, Campbell says getting to play for a championship is reward enough for a team that won only seven games last season.

"Win or lose Saturday this will be an experience no one can take from them," Campbell said. "I don't think there were too many people who thought at the beginning of the year that Oakmont would be in the section championship."

March 4, 2010
Sheldon drops softball opener to Lodi 1-0

In coaching it's hard not to get attached to the young minds you help to mold.

Unfortunately at the high school level, coaches must have a short memory with a year-to-year rotation of players in and out of the program.

Sheldon softball coach Mary Jo Truesdale knows this well. In the past Truesdale has had to replace standouts like Nikki Cinque, Shannon Brooks, Joanna O'Neill, Kate Albaugh and Jodi Valley, all of whom went on to play NCAA Division I softball. More recently her starting battery of Jolene Henderson and Lindsey Ziegenhirt, the most accomplished duo the Huskies' program has ever seen, graduated in the spring and is now starring at Cal.

"You go through cycles every few years," Truesdale said after the Huskies lost their opener 1-0 to Lodi on Thursday afternoon. "You play who you get.

"This is a great young group - very competitive for as young as they are."

Defensive miscues cost Sheldon, ranked No. 14 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, more than anything on Thursday as Lodi's active base runners drew three throws from catcher Meshalon Moore to try and cut them down, only to have the ball get by defenders covering the bases.

In the top of the third Moore threw to second in an attempt to catch Kortney Solis stealing, but the ball got past second baseman Dejanae Moore and into the outfield allowing Flames shortstop Brooke Ortiz to score the game's only run.

"We have some communication issues to work out," Truesdale said. "Other than those miscues it was a 0-0 ballgame."

While Sheldon is in a transition period, the Flames, with a roster of 11 upperclassmen including six seniors, believe they can win now.

"Our sights are set on Sections," said Lodi senior pitcher Tori Shepard who is bound for Pacific next year. "We (the seniors) want to go farther than we ever have before."

March 4, 2010
Vista del Lago's triple overtime boys basketball win is an instant classic

By Bill Paterson

It will go down as a classic.

How often do you see a game that features two buzzer-beating, game-tying three-pointers?

Or basketball players cramping up, going down but refusing to limp their way out of the game?

Or three overtimes when one team only uses one sub and the other two?

That's what a large crowd at Cosumnes River College got treated to Wednesday night when second-seeded Vista del Lago defeated sixth-seeded Center 69-66 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals.

Vista del Lago (28-2), in only its second season of varsity competition, will play top-seeded Sacramento High (23-6) for the D-III championship 9 p.m. Friday at Arco Arena.

The Dragons reached the D-III title game for the sixth consecutive season by beating fourth-seeded St. Mary's of Stockton 85-72 earlier in the evening.

Center, The Bee's top-ranked team, will still have at least another game. For the first time, section semifinalists will qualify for the expanded California Interscholastic Federation Northern California regional playoffs.

The Cougars will learn Sunday who they will play in Tuesday's opening round.

Both teams will have a tough act to follow for the rest of the postseason.

The crowd, including two large, colorful and boisterous student rooting sections, couldn't believe what they were seeing.

Vista del Lago's Hayden Lescault, who finished with a game-high 31 points, made a 20-foot, lean-in jumper with two seconds in regulation to tie the game 49-49 and send it into overtime.

Center's Elliot Herald, with a Vista del Lago defender right in his face, hit a 30-footer at the buzzer in the first overtime to tie the game 56-56.

Mike Young put Vista del Lago ahead to stay 67-65 by hitting a finger-tip roll layup with 2:15 to play in the third overtime.

Despite playing 32 regulation minutes and 12 overtime minutes, Center used only seven players, one for less than a minute in the second quarter. Vista del Lago played seven, but center Marques White fouled out with 2:41 to play in the fourth quarter.

The win snapped Center's 20-game winning streak. The Cougars' last loss: In double overtime to Vista del Lago in the championship game of the Folsom tournament in December.

"We knew it was going to be a fight to the end, the last game showed us that," Lescault said. "Neither team was going to quit. In the end,. we just fought a little harder than they did.

"We talked about it after the second overtime, about how much work we put in the preseason and how no other team worked as hard as we did. That's what put us through at the end."

Chad Haysbert, the talented 6-7 junior, led Center with 20 points. Andres Martinez added 19 and Herald 14. Jaquai Wiley finished with 10 points for Vista del Lago.

"It was amazing that those kids could fight so hard," said Vista del Lago coach Jeff Bridges. "But that's how much it meant to both teams. I give their coach (Ray Gagnon) and their players a ton of credit.

"Both teams represented their schools well. Both fought hard, kept their mouths shut and just played basketball. The 3,000 or so people that were here sure got their money's worth."

In the back-and-forth game, Center had one last chance to win in the third overtime.

With the Cougars down a point, Daniel Smith missed two free throws with 5.9 seconds left. But on the second miss, the ball went out of bounds off a Vista del Lago player.

Center's inbounds with 4.3 seconds went awry and Martinez traveled while trying a desperation shot from near half court among three Eagles' defenders.

Gagnon, arguing that Martinez was fouled, was assessed a technical with 0.5 left.

Lescault made both shots for the final three-point margin of victory.

Bridges said they didn't want either Chad Haysbert or his 6-foot-8 older brother, Connor, to get the ball close to the basket.

"We were trying to contain the paint area, so we really packed it," Bridges said. "They were getting desperate, it was almost five seconds, so they threw it over the top. We reacted quickly to it."

Bridges said he's never seen so many players cramp up because of exhaustion.

He remembers at one point looking over at a fatigued Demarcus Wishom, his 6-5 senior forward, sprawled by the bench with cramps.

"There's Demarcus on the ground, and people are pouring water into his mouth," Bridges said. "I've never seen so many kids falling. They are just tough kids."

None tougher than Lescault, who played the entire 44 minutes and had nine of his 31 points in overtime.

"He's just got passion," Bridges said of his senior star. "He's going to find a way. He's not the quickest, not the fastest. But he's awfully crafty. He can handle the ball and pass it and shoot it. Those are three pretty tough things to guard."

Martinez put Center ahead 49-46 by making two free throws with 10.7 seconds left during regulation.

Then Lescault took the inbounds and dribbled hard up the court. He went to put up a shot, but a Center defender was there and leaped high in the air. Lescault cocked the ball in his arm, ducked slightly to his right and let it fly. The ball got all net.

"The clock was winding down and I had to get the shot off," Lescault said. "So as I turned I saw that the defender had already jumped, so I went for it."

Now Lescault and the Eagles hope to go for it against the defending section champions on Friday.

Sacramento High has won titles in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and was runners-up in 2006 and 2008 and they have a player, junior guard Josiah Turner who is vying for Lescault for Bee Player of the Year honors.

"We can't wait for it," Lescault said. "It's going to be a battle. It's going to be a great game. They are a good team. But we'll game plan for them and come out with all we've got."

Bridges was kidded if the clock-savvy, defensive-minded Eagles might try to surprise the uptempo Dragons by running with them on Friday night.

"We'll be lucky if we can jog," Bridges quipped. "We'll be lucky if we can walk after tonight

March 3, 2010
Sara James leads Oak Ridge past Franklin in D-I; Kennedy blasts McClatchy

In the end, experience paid dividends.

Top-seeded Oak Ridge rallied to down No. 4 Franklin 42-38 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal slugfest tonight at Pacific.

The Trojans rolled to a D-II title a year ago and rolled through two rounds in D-I this season before encountering a feisty and athletic Wildcats team that led early in the fourth before stalling. Sara James played like a playoff veteran as the fourth-year starter finished with 24 points, 16 rebounds and six steals. Caitlin Welsch had eight for Oak Ridge.

Gena Johnson had 18 for Franklin as she got a head start on her Pacific career. The guard will play for the Tigers on scholarship next season.

In the other D-I semifinal, No. 3 Kennedy bombed No. 10 McClatchy 58-31 in a showdown expected to be much closer, given the rivalry.

Kennedy stormed to a 15-2 lead with three-pointers and defense.

Team leader Leslie Leong scored 13 points, Cydni Matsuoka had 11, Lynette Johnson 11, Kelsie Muramoto nine and Shanice Butler seven for the Cougars, in the finals for the seventh time since 2001 and seeking a fifth title. Leong, Matsuoka and Muramoto combined to hit 9 of 14 threes, and they flustered McClatchy dynamo guard Ariel Thomas with traps and double teams and anticipated some of her passes.

Oak Ridge and Kennedy play for the title Saturday night at Arco Arena.

In Division II, top-seeded St. Francis clobbered No. 5 Woodcreek 73-46, using a 19-0 first-half run. Briana Charles had 29 points and Jolise Limcaco had 18 for the Troubadours, in the finals for the eighth time.

In the other D-II semifinal, Ashley Moore scored the winner on a one-handed runner with 5.6 seconds to play to lift No. 3 Vallejo past No. 2 Bella Vista 55-54. Moore had 26 points and 13 rebounds.

St. Francis and Vallejo play for the title Saturday at Arco Arena.

March 3, 2010
Vallejo impressive on the floor in girls D-II play, not so much with fan sportsmanship

The Vallejo-Bella Vista girls basketball playoff game in Division II today at Pacific was fun, entertaining, edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.

But wow, can someone please yank a core of the Vallejo fans to the side and remind them that it's ok to cheer with class?

No. 3-seeded Vallejo squeezed out a 55-54 triumph of the No. 2 Broncos, but it was hard to focus on the action with the way some Apaches fans cheered and jeered with a chip on their shoulder. This boorish behavior doesn't reflect on the entire Vallejo fan base, certainly, but they were loud enough and rude enough to sour the experience for Bella Vista fans.

Parents - grown men - stalked through the crowd, howled at referees, hissed at CIF officials who suggested they pipe it down a bit. One Bella Vista fan kept defending her taunting of Vallejo players because "I'm an official."


After the game, a Vallejo reserve player who didn't play raced over to taunt the Bella Vista fans, and her actions were backed by a dad who yelled, "That's right!". We express boo on you.

Here's an idea: Send the Apaches to Arco Arena for the title game on Saturday afternoon and leave the fans who don't seem to acknowledge it's never been about them behind.

On the court, Vallejo has a talented, athletic and motivated bunch for coach Jim Capoot, led by senior guard Ashley Moore, who scored the game winner with a one-handed runner with 5.6 seconds left. Bella Vista could not get a clean shot off. Moore finished with 26 points and Rechel Carter had 12.

Leah Parrish scored 20 for Bella Vista and Kelly Logue 16.

March 3, 2010
Sheldon, Woodcreek climb into Cal-Hi Sports' state divisional boys basketball rankings

Sheldon and Woodcreek have moved into this week's Cal-Hi Sports' boys basketball state divisional rankings released earlier today.

Sheldon, at No. 15, is the only area team ranked in Division I. Mater Dei of Santa Ana is No. 1 and Westchester of Los Angeles No. 2.

Woodcreek is No. 7 in D-II Top 10. St. Francis of Mountain View is No. 1 and defending D-II state champion Eisenhower of Rialto No. 2.

Center maintained its No. 6 ranking in D-III while Sacramento High climbed to No. 8 (from No. 9) and Vista del Lago to No. 9 (from No. 10). Serra of Gardena is No. 1 and Ocean View of Huntington Beach No. 2.

Colfax climbed from No. 10 to No. 9 in D-IV. Salesian of Richmond is No. 1 and Price of Los Angeles No. 2.

March 3, 2010
DV boys offers parity since Modesto Christian, Capital Christian moved up

Since the Sac-Joaquin Section moved Modesto Christian and Capital Christian out of Division V, boys basketball has shown plenty of parity in a division with an enrollment level of 300 or fewer students.

After Tuesday night's semifinal games at Galt High School, it will mark the fourth and fifth different schools to play for a DV boys championship in the last three years.

Modesto Christian and Capital Christian played in the DV title game five consecutive years from 2003 to 2007. Modesto Christian won all five before getting bumped up with Capital Christian to Division IV in 2008, where the Crusaders have since won two more championships (Modesto Christian has won 10 consecutive section titles at three different levels.)

In D-V, Forest Lake Christian beat Brookside Christian of Stockton 77-58 in 2008, then Bradshaw Christian downed Forest Lake Christian 55-52 in last year's final.

On Friday at 5:30 at Arco Arena, it will be Victory Christian of Carmichael taking on Ripon Christian for this year's D-V title after both won tight, emotionally charged semifinal games Tuesday at Galt High School.

"You know now that if you have a good DV team you are going to get a shot at a title and have the chance to play at Arco Arena," said Victory Christian's Bob Grexton, who has coached 14 seasons at the school. "When Modesto Christian was in the division, it seemed like we'd play them in the semifinals and lose by 30 points every time."

Logan Vos' two free throws with nine seconds left proved the winning points in second-seeded Ripon Christian's 63-62 win over third-seeded Bradshaw Christian (22-8).
Then top-seeded Victory Christian held off a ferocious Valley Christian (26-3) of Roseville fourth-quarter rally to prevail 73-64 over the fourth-seeded Lions (25-6).

But this won't be the first time Ripon Christian (22-6) or Victory Christian play for a D-V title. Ripon Christian has won seven D-V championships (nine overall), with the last coming in 1996 when the Knights beat Victory Christian 47-44.

That was Victory Christian's first championship appearance. The Vikings returned and lost to Modesto Christian in the 1997 finals, then beat Forest Lake Christian for the championship in 2001.

Ripon Christian is a junior version of Modesto Christian. The Knights have been D-V runners-up four times in addition to their seven championships at that level.

"We figured Ripon Christian would be the school we would be playing if we made it this far," Grexton said. "They've got quite a team, and they have an amazing history in DV. We're going to have our hands full on Friday."

One of Victory Christian's three losses came to Ripon Christian, 64-43, in a nonleague game Dec. 22. The Knights' 6-foot-8, 255-pound center Tyler Goslinga had 29 points.

"He presents a big challenge for us," Grexton said. "But I like my guys. We may not be the greatest skill-wise, but nobody is going to outwork us or outhustle us."

Victory Christian 73, Valley Christian 64
The defense-minded Vikings have been allowing opponents 39 points a game this season but that got tossed out the window against an athletic and tenacious opponent that maintained a frenetic pace right from the start.

Valley Christian coach Brad Gunter pressed and constantly shuttled in players in a bid to force turnovers and easy baskets and to tire the Vikings.

It almost worked.

Valley Christian several times cut double-digit second-half deficits and twice closed to within two points, including 66-64 with 39.7 seconds on Ryan Cordell's three-pointer.
But Victory Christian made six of seven free throws and Valley Christian missed its last three shots to fall to the Vikings for the third time this season.

Senior Nathan Coppernoll had 17 points and younger brother Clayton, a sophomore, added 13, all in the second half, to lead Victory Christian. Brad Hoffelt added 11 points and Kevin Halverson and Ethan Boolen 10 apiece for the Vikings.

Cordell had 17, Jason Gish 11 and Jesse Peters and Orest Shaynyuk 10 each for Valley Christian.

Ripon Christian 63, Bradshaw Christian 62
Two turnovers in the final 20 seconds ended the Pride's bid to return to the D-V championship game.

A pair of free throws by J.J. Mina with 44.9 seconds gave Bradshaw Christian a 62-61 lead, then Ripon Christian's Daniel Van De Pol missed a jumper and the Pride rebounded.

But Brady Dragmire, otherwise brilliant on the night, was called for traveling with 19.3 seconds to play. Vos was fouled after driving the length of the floor and going in for a layup that just rimmed out with nine seconds. He calmly made both free throws.

Then in trying to inbounds the ball with six seconds, Logan Schauer couldn't control Mina's high inbounds attempt high above the top of the key. The ball squirted into the backcourt, ending Bradshaw Christian's season.

It was a frustrating game for the Pride, who led most of the game.

Goslinga went scoreless in the first half, missing his only attempt and getting called for traveling four times. But he tallied 16 second-half points to complement a game-high 23 by Daniel Van De Pol. Vos finished with 15.

Mina had 18, Dragmire 17 and Orion Kidd 11 for Bradshaw Christian.

March 2, 2010
Franklin overwhelms Pleasant Grove in boys D-I quarterfinals at UOP; Rosaroso leads the way as seven of eight higher seeds win Tuesday night

Top-seeded Franklin played a complete game in taking apart No. 9 Pleasant Grove 85-40 tonight in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal boys game at Pacific.

The Wildcats of Elk Grove pulled a rarity in that a running clock was used as part of the 40-point mercy rule, with 35 seconds remaining. For three-plus quarters Franklin put on a thorough clinic, with defense the theme.

The Wildcats have a terrific guard set with Michael Rosaroso (21 points), Hennessee Lott (8), Anthony King (12) and freshman Ikenna Iroegbu (2). Rosaroso is a superb dribbler who looks to attack and go off the glass, or shoot from mid or long range. He is as fearless as he is strong, a three-year starter who has been to UOP in the quarterfinals each season.

To complement Rosaroso, Lott and King are superb athletes. Coach Jesse Formaker was pleased with his team's showing, exhorting his bunch to defend and share the ball. Franklin led 38-20 at the half and 67-29 after three in sucking the life out of the Eagles in winning their fifth straight game and 11th out of 12.

Franklin beat Edison of Stockton 80-62 in a playoff opener and played even better defense against a better team tonight.

"When we play defense, we have the opportunity to be pretty good," Formaker said. "That's what we put on our board - team and effort. If you play as a team and not worry about stats or highlight plays, and everyone plays with effort, we'll be fine. I was pleased with the boys."

Pleasant Grove will return a wealth of talent next season, including guard Cody Demps, post Curtis Williams, shooter Rodrick Hylton and big man Arik Armstead, who was limited this season with a leg injury.

Franklin plays Turlock of the Central California Conference at 5:30 on Thursday. Turlock beat Rodriguez 78-68 in a quarterfinal at UOP. In the other D-I semifinal Thursday at Arco, No. 6 Sheldon plays No. 2 Merced in what should be a fun up-and-down affair.

All told, seven of the top eight seeds in Tuesday's action - Divisions I and V (boys and girls at Galt) - won tonight.

Nearly 90 percent of the higher seeds have won in the early rounds - boys and girls - which shows that the seeding do indeed work. If this holds up, it would be an all-time section record for combined winning percentage for higher seeds since the tournament started in 1972, section assistant commissioner John Williams said.

The "surprise" lower seeds who are still alive are not real surprises at all. They are the Sheldon boys, which started the season as The Bee's No. 1 team, and the No. 10 McClatchy girls, which again bounced a No. 2 seed under coach Harvey Tahara. The Lions played Sacramento tough in two Metro League games and battled two-time defending D-I champion Kennedy in a nonleague game.

The teams play in a rematch Wednesday at UOP for a berth in Saturday's D-I finals against the winner of Wednesday's Oak Ridge-Franklin meeting.

The Franklin boys seek its third finals spot since 2005 and first title. Turlock has never reached the section finals.

March 2, 2010
Sheldon, Merced impress in D-I at Pacific, as does venue; girls at UOP on Wednesday

Pacific continues to be an ideal site for the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs, even if the late games end late - all the more later for finals week - but unless teams host two early games, there's no way around it.

As it stands now, UOP is a comfortable setting, easy to get to in Stockton from the freeways, and all things considered, regionally convenient for some Division I entrants this season.

Tonight, the sixth-seeded Sheldon boys looked more like a high seed in rallying past No. 3 Burbank 74-69. Ramon Eaton had 24 points in looking like an intrigue recruit, Eric Williams had two fourth-quarter threes after dropping in six in a playoff opener and had 18, and Darius Nelson put in 15 with nine rebounds.

Top-seeded Franklin, a fellow member of the Elk Grove Unified School District, had the late game against district member and No. 9 Pleasant Grove. The middle game featured an impressive Merced team, seeded second and playing the part. The Bears belted No. 7 Grace Davis of Modesto ??

The Sheldon-Merced meeting in a 4 p.m. semifinal at Arco Arena will be an entertaining show of up-tempo teams. Merced has more experience but the Huskies are taller with the 6-8 Eaton and 6-6 Nelson, both of whom can also handle the ball. Merced is a tradition-rich program, having won three successive titles in the mid 1980s behind three-year starting guard Gerald Madkins (who went on to play at UCLA).

Merced won four titles under coach Vince Clemons and seeks its ninth finals appearance.

Sheldon has been to the finals three times since 2004 under coach Scott Gradin, who stepped down after last season and turned the program over to former Sheldon girls coach Joey Rollings.

Franklin has been to the finals twice since 2005, including a heart-breaking loss to Folsom last season.

Kennedy-McClatchy highlight the girls D-I action Wednesday at UOP. The Cougars are seeded third and seek a third successive title and the first for coach Dave Parsh, who replaced Brandon Yung, The Bee's Coach of the Decade. No. 10 McClatchy is playing much better than its seed, thanks to star guard Ariel Thomas, a host of role players and the coaching of Harvey Tahara.

In the late game Wednesday, No. 4 Franklin and guard Gena Johnson play top-seeded Oak Ridge and four-year record-breaking swing Sara James. Oak Ridge rolled in D-II last season and has again in D-I this season, winning its first two games by 80 points.

The earlier D-II girls games at UOP are No. 2 Bella Vista vs. No. 3 Vallejo at 4 p.m., followed by No. 1 St. Francis vs. No. 5 Woodcreek.

Cosumnes River College will host Division III girls and boys semifinals with the Sac High girls playing Del Oro and the Sac High boys taking on St. Mary's among the matchups.

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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