Derek Swafford comes across as an impossible-to-please coach.
Equal parts grouch and nurturing papa bear, the Sacramento High School boys basketball coach implores the extra pass and unyielding effort.
Swafford, despite moments of absolute angst, was generally pleased with his team’s effort Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena.
Top-ranked by The Bee entering the postseason, the Dragons looked the part in beating a strong Cosumnes Oaks squad 82-55 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinal at Sleep Train Arena.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Swafford barks at his young team, a group that starts no seniors, because he cares. And because he sees great promise in a program used to chasing down championships.
“We can be so good,” Swafford said. “If we tighten some things up, improve our critical thinking skills, we can compete for a state championship.
“Sometimes it’s hard to press upon young players to follow instructions, that just because you make a bucket, it’s not all good. Everyone loves the ‘oohs-and-aahs’ plays, but I’m old-school. We just need points. Score and defend.”
Sacramento did plenty of both in racing back to a section final for the sixth time since 2005 and the first time since 2011, when it capped a three-peat title run in Division III.
The Dragons (26-4) have won 15 consecutive games on the strength of balance, quickness and the inside presence of 6-foot-7 junior center Solomon Young, who seems to add to his game each week.
A Pacific-12 Conference recruit, Young had 25 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. He scored on inside power moves, dunks and fast breaks. He also proved to be a load on defense.
Also for Sacramento, guards Sayvon Hines and Andrew Williams scored 13 each and Christian Terrell had 11. In all, 11 Dragons scored as they combined to shoot 49 percent.
Eric Toles led Cosumnes Oaks with 22 points and nine rebounds, Jeff Dresser scored 10, and Jaaron Stallworth had nine.
The Wolfpack (22-8) still advanced to the NorCal Division II playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Saturday, Sacramento plays Modesto Christian in the final at Sleep Train. The Crusaders (27-3) beat St. Mary’s 59-46 for their 17th consecutive victory. They are seeking to extend their record of 16 section championships in various divisions dating to 1997.
It should be a wide-open, entertaining game, even for the throwback coach in Swafford.
“Oh, it’ll be fun,” Swafford said. “They’re really good. But I know we won’t back down. We never do.”