Joe Davidson

Whitney boys rolling as section basketball playoffs loom

Whitney High School boys basketball coach Nick French during his team’s Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal playoff game, March 2, 2016 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Whitney is the hottest Division II school, and climbed to No. 5 in The Bee’s latest top-20 rankings.
Whitney High School boys basketball coach Nick French during his team’s Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal playoff game, March 2, 2016 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Whitney is the hottest Division II school, and climbed to No. 5 in The Bee’s latest top-20 rankings. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball playoffs will be loaded at the top in Division I.

Sheldon High School, The Sacramento Bee’s top-ranked team, and No. 2 Woodcreek are expected to be the top seeds and stand as overwhelming favorites to meet for the large-school championship on March 4 at Pacific in Stockton.

The Division II field appears much more balanced, which generally equates to unpredictable and fun. The hottest D-II school is Whitney, which has climbed to No. 5 behind another tournament favorite, Burbank, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped on Friday at Sacramento High. Whitney has won eight consecutive games and aims to make it 10 in its regular-season finale this week. Other D-II contenders include No. 6 Grant, No. 10 Rio Linda, No. 17 Inderkum and No. 18 Yuba City.

The section will release the boys and girls playoff brackets at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday from its Lodi office (live streaming at nfhsnetwork.com/associations/cifsjs).

Whitney avenged its lone Capital Valley Conference loss to Roseville with a 78-66 victory on Friday. The Wildcats of Rocklin reached the D-II section final last season, falling to powerhouse Sacramento, which is now in the D-I field. The Whitney senior class is 97-14 over four seasons at all levels, including 27-0 as freshmen and 21-4 this season. Leading scorer Jashon Lewis (15.9 points a game, 22.0 in league play) joins fellow guard Juren Kim Porras and wing Adam Sharrah as senior captains. Josh Ohara is a three-year varsity player, and Matt Sanchez and Spencer Bennett are also four-year program players.

Junior guards Tyler Austin, Justin Kraft and Matt Willis also have played well for coach Nick French.

“It’s a special group of seniors that came in as freshmen my first year here,” French said. “Here I was, the new guy, and they didn’t know me. ‘Who’s this new dude?’ We’ve all bought in.”

Happiest of birthdays – Isaiah Laspina was the man of the hour in Grass Valley on Friday night, his birthday.

Laspina is the team manager for Lincoln, a beloved special-needs student who teases the coaches that he’s the one in charge. He was added to the official scorebook and handed a jersey and got into his first game against Bear River, an idea hatched by teammates and shared enthusiastically by the host school’s players and coaches. Laspina started the game, got the ball early and scored on a put-back. He was mobbed by teammates and cheered by Bear River and Lincoln fans in his only game action. Lincoln won 54-32.

“It was big-time, a great moment we’ll all remember,” Lincoln coach Robert Ash said. “He’s the most positive kid. We all love him. He was talking about his rebound, ‘You see me get that ball?’ He interrupted a meeting (on Monday) with our principal Jay Berns to talk about his great moment. It was bigger than sports.”

Girls – Top-ranked Sac High hosts No. 2 McClatchy on Wednesday in a rubber match of rivals.

A McClatchy victory would create a tie for the Metropolitan Conference title between the programs, who will not meet in the playoffs because they are in different divisions. McClatchy expects a high seed in the D-I field and Sac the same in D-II.

McClatchy beat Sacramento 49-46 on Dec. 30 in the West Coast Jamboree, and the Dragons got revenge on Jan. 25 at McClatchy, prevailing 54-48 as RyAnne Walters led the way.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD

Girls basketball

The Bee’s Top 20

(With previous ranking; records through Saturday)

1. Sacramento (1) 19-7

2. McClatchy (2) 23-3

3. St. Francis (3) 18-7

4. Elk Grove (4) 21-5

5. West Campus (5) 20-4

6. Folsom (6) 22-3

7. Oak Ridge (7) 17-9

8. Rio Linda (8) 21-5

9. Roseville (9) 18-7

10. Antelope (10) 18-7

11. River City (11) 17-8

12. Davis (12) 17-8

13. Vista del Lago (16) 21-5

14. Cosumnes Oaks (17) 18-7

15. Capital Christian (15) 18-8

16. Whitney (18) 17-8

17. Union Mine (19) 17-6

18. Placer (20) 14-11

19. Foothill (13) 22-4

20. Christian Brothers (-) 10-15

Boys basketball

The Bee’s Top 20

(With previous ranking; records through Saturday)

1. Sheldon (1) 24-2

2. Woodcreek (2) 23-2

3. Capital Christian (4) 18-7

4. Burbank (3) 23-3

5. Whitney (12) 21-4

6. Grant (5) 20-7

7. Folsom (6) 19-6

8. Vista del Lago (7) 20-6

9. Placer (9) 23-3

10. Rio Linda (10) 22-3

11. Sacramento (14) 16-10

12. Jesuit (15) 14-12

13. Christian Brothers (8) 15-11

14. Cosumnes Oaks (-) 18-7

15. Roseville (11) 15-10

16. Ponderosa (13) 16-9

17. Yuba City (16)14-10

18. Inderkum (17) 18-6

19. Granite Bay (18) 15-10

20. Liberty Ranch (20) 19-7

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