Bouncing around the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs:
Rolling momentum – The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in all six boys divisions and five of the six in girls, have cruised through the early rounds and are headed for showdowns this weekend at Pacific, a perfect venue for the title games. The is the first time Pacific has hosted the finals (Golden 1 Center was the target, but there was a venue scheduling conflict).
Pacific also will host the Division I and II boys and girls semifinals after years at Sleep Train Arena.
The 6,150-seat Spanos Center is ideally intimate for a high school crowd with fans right on top of the action, the band and crowd noise reverberating off the walls. Anyone who experienced ringing ears well into the spring after absorbing the CIF State Championships at Cal’s cozy Haas Pavilion in 2015 will attest to the benefit of smaller venues compared to NBA buildings that can be too cavernous if not sold out. Still, the experience of competing in an NBA building is what the CIF and its 10 sections appreciate, and Golden 1 Center will host the CIF State finals next month with the hope of making that a fixture.
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Fast-forward fun – To fully appreciate Sheldon and Woodcreek in D-I action, one must see these programs up close.
Top-seeded Sheldon is guard heavy with Drew Cobb and twins Elishja and Isaiah Duplechan, each senior possessing myriad skills, each focused on ball movement and defense, and each an exceptional student.
Second-seeded Woodcreek is anchored by 6-foot-11 junior center Jordan Brown, the top recruit in Northern California. For all of his dazzling ability and dominance, Brown is most lauded for being a great teammate, one of the guys. Never mind that he’s the towering guy.
Upenders – What’s a tournament without an upset or two?
In boys D-II, Del Oro hasn’t performed like the 12th seed, toppling No. 4 Inderkum 75-68 in an overtime opener and then racing past Grant 75-52 on Friday. Stone Smartt, a Bee All-Metro football star, has led the charge. Smartt in a word: winner. Del Oro faces top-seeded Whitney in a semifinal on Wednesday at Pacific. Burbank, the No. 2 seed, is in a semifinal for the first time in 19 seasons.
Bruin bruisers – The Bear River girls pulled the biggest upset of the tournament, either gender, when the No. 7 Bruins toppled D-IV No. 2 Calaveras 60-50. Katelyn Meylor, Alyssa Pulkinghorn and Mallory Rath have led the charge. Bear River has won 10 championships but last played in a final in 2013 and last won one in 2007 when it repeated in D-IV. The Bruins’ semifinal opponent is Foothill. The teams split two Pioneer Valley League meetings this season.
Third-seeded Foothill is led by guard Makaila Sanders, a junior averaging 24.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 4.2 steals. She has helped lift a program from mediocrity to sudden respectability. The Mustangs had one victory in 2009-10, seven in 2013-14, 11 two seasons ago and 15 last winter.
Young gun – He’s barely 5-9 and hasn’t hit 140 pounds, but Jalen Patterson played enormous in another upset effort.
A freshman guard for sixth-seeded Liberty Ranch of Galt, Patterson made 10 of 11 3-point shots, many from Steph Curry-like range, to propel the Hawks to an 82-67 win over No. 3 Calaveras in D-IV. Liberty Ranch coach Josh Williams is working more wonders with another revamped lineup. He was The Bee’s Coach of the Year last season after graduation cleared out all of his starters from the previous season.
Over and out – The D-I quarterfinals were not kind to Folsom, courtesy of Stockton powers.
The girls fell to Lincoln 58-47 and the boys 69-68 to St. Mary’s in double overtime, thus ending the season of two of the section’s elite and most entertaining players. McKenzie Forbes led the Folsom girls and her brother Mason Forbes the boys team. Both are juniors, McKenzie committed to Cal, and Mason is fielding myriad offers. The top-seeded St. Mary’s girls meet No. 4 Lincoln in one D-I semifinal, and No. 2 McClatchy faces No. 3 Oak Ridge in another.