High School Sports

A second life in CIF NorCal basketball is a good life for Cosumnes Oaks and Rocklin

Sheldon boys basketball wins section title

Rallying from nine points down with just over 4 minutes to play, and then agonizing over one final shot, top-seeded Sheldon High held off defending champion Modesto Christian 64-61 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals.
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Rallying from nine points down with just over 4 minutes to play, and then agonizing over one final shot, top-seeded Sheldon High held off defending champion Modesto Christian 64-61 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals.

Giving new meaning to new life, Steve Taylor and Patrick Roth are skipping to an extra beat these days.

So are the teams they coach.

Their high school basketball teams – Rocklin and Cosumnes Oaks, respectively – are still alive, maximizing the road-warrior theme in extending seasons that were not long ago on the brink.

Taylor is in the third season of his second tour with Rocklin, his boys club standing at an inspired, if a bit weary, 2-0 in the CIF Northern California Division II tournament.

Bounced out of the Sac-Joaquin Section tournament in the second round, the Thunder (27-5) took their NorCal at-large bid and ran with it. The No. 13 seed meant road trips, but it has translated to an 83-72 victory at Clovis North and then a 65-62 triumph at defending CIF State champion Pleasant Valley in Chico.

Donovan Lopez and Cory Gohl led the way against Pleasant Valley. Next for a homegrown team of players is a Saturday semifinal in San Mateo against Serra, a storied sports program out of the West Catholic Athletic League that once included Barry Bonds, Tom Brady and Lynn Swann.

Taylor has shown he still has some boogie in his step, clapping and cheering with giddy players after each of the two NorCal victories. This is why he’s back in the game: memories.

“It’s a lot of fun with this group, particularly because when we started this three years ago, these kids were all sophomores and we targeted them as being the group to get us back on the map,” Taylor said. “I’m just trying to live in the moment with them. When I got back into coaching, one of the things I told myself was I was going to try to enjoy the ride more along the way instead of waiting until it was all over.”

Taylor coached Rocklin to a 33-3 season in 2009, which included a NorCal championship. By 2012, two years after Taylor stepped aside to catch his breath, the Thunder bottomed out at 4-24.

Meanwhile in Elk Grove, the Cosumnes Oaks girls (25-7) have taken a similar path to reach a Saturday semifinal.

The Wolfpack lost in a section semifinal, was awarded a No. 7 seed in the NorCal D-II field and posted a 43-31 victory at second-seeded Clovis, delighting Roth, who led the school’s boys team to NorCal success earlier this decade.

“We’re making the most of our second life,” Roth said.

Raenete McCrae had 12 points and 14 rebounds against Clovis, Kendal Jones scored 11 points and Jasmine Hess had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Next is third-seeded Enterprise in Redding, a three-hour trek north.

Tradition vs. tradition – Sheldon will host De La Salle in a NorCal Open Division semifinal on Saturday night at 6 p.m., the winner to play the survivor of the other semifinal between top-seeded Salesian of Richmond and Modesto Christian.

Sheldon is the defending NorCal Open champion coming off of an energized section D-I championship win over Modesto Christian.

De La Salle (29-3) aims to bounce its second successive Sac-Joaquin Section champion, having snapped the 30-game winning streak of Weston Ranch of Stockton, 48-42 in an Open Division opener. The Spartans have nine section titles since 2004 and won the NorCal Open in 2016.

Sheldon (22-10) entered the week hopefull that 6-foot-8 junior guard/wing Marcus Bagley will be able to play. He has been sidelined this postseason with a sore back, but told The Bee on Saturday afternoon via social media that he will play against De La Salle.

The Huskies’ Xavion and Xavier Brown, Marquis Hargrove, Dontrel Hewlett, Justin Nguyen, Darren Tobias, and Josh and Kaito Williams have been stellar in the playoffs.

De La Salle is 2-0 against Sheldon in the NorCal playoffs, prevailing in the 2004 D-I finals and in the 2011 D-I semifinals.

Pacers prevail – The regional boys teams in six NorCal divisions have been whittled down to Sheldon, Rocklin and Grant.

Third-seeded Grant (26-7) on Thursday in D-II eliminated storied St. Joseph Notre Dame Alameda, the alma mater of Jason Kidd and a seven-time NorCal champion since 2004. In the 66-58 overtime victory, sophomore Corey Yerger scored 16 points.

Grant plays at second-seeded Campolindo of Moraga on Saturday in a semifinal. The Cougars (24-7) have eliminated two regional teams in Oak Ridge (69-56) and Sacramento (74-72 in overtime).

Moving on – There are six girls teams remaining over six divisions, including Antelope in D-I.

Seeded seventh, the Titans beat No. 2 Heritage 53-48 in Brentwood on Thursday, closing it out with a 16-1 run. Star sophomore guard Jzaniya Harriel had 33 points for Antelope (31-3) which plays at No. 6 Bear Creek of Stockton (29-5) in a Saturday semifinal.

No. 16 Union Mine, fresh off bouncing top-seeded Christian Brothers, beat Aragon in San Mateo 46-34 and will play at Seaside (27-3) on Saturday in a D-III semifinal. Carley Zaragoza had 20 points and 19 rebounds and Ali McDonald had 15 and 11 for the Diamondbacks (22-8).

For complete basketball brackets, visit cifstate.org.

Soccer seasons – Jesuit beat Berkeley in overtime on penalty kicks 4-2 in a CIF NorCal Division I semifinal.

Cole Barrett, Luke Bone and Christian Honig each scored goals, and goalkeeper Frankie Turnbull was exceptional in overtime for the second-seeded Marauders (25-2-3), who play at top-seeded Bellarmine (20-2-3) in San Jose for the title Saturday at 4 p.m..

In girls D-I, top-seeded Davis beat San Ramon Valley of Danville 6-5 on penalty kicks after 95 scoreless minutes.

The Blue Devils (22-0-1) host No. 6 Monte Vista of Danville (19-2-2) on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the NorCal title.

In D-II, No. 4 St. Francis will host No. 3 Mountain View at 3 p.m. for the title. St. Francis (22-3-4) beat Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa 2-0 in a semifinal behind goals from Janae DeFazio and Jackie Koerwitz.

In D-IV, No. 6 El Camino defeated Campolindo of Moraga 2-0 The Eagles (15-7) play at No. 5 Miramonte of Orinda on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the championship.

For complete soccer brackets, visit cifstate.org.

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.