The head coach has been sidelined for a stretch to recover from exhaustion, the assistant kept the machine rolling and a determined group of players never missed a beat in a season of great promise.
This is the Capital Christian High School basketball team, talented beyond measure and all the more united with a lot more season left.
Zach Chappell scored 31 points, Kendall Munson had 15 and Austin Alexander muscled inside for 11 points and 14 rebounds to propel the second-seeded Cougars past upstart Vista del Lago 74-62 on Saturday night to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship at Pacific.
It’s the fifth title for the Cougars since 2012 spanning different divisions, and four of those came under the direction of a passionate Devon Jones. He sidelined himself as he was wearing thin with coaching and off-campus work life that requires a lot of travel. He handed the reins over on Feb. 4 to assistant coach Ernest Taubodo, who went 9-0. The winning streak overall is 18 for Capital Christian (23-7).
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Jones watched recent games near the bench but let Taubodo coach, to not interrupt flow, though he will assume command of the team starting Monday as the march to a CIF Northern California championship is on. Capital Christian could wind up in the prestigious Open Division. If not, the Cougars figure to be the favorite in D-III.
“What Ernest was able to do – amazing,” Jones said. “He walked in and led this team. I’m proud of my friend, of all these coaches and these players. Everyone had to step up.”
Chappell has provided a semblance of calm for a team that took awhile to find itself amid new faces, injuries and a brutal early schedule. The 6-foot-4 junior guard scored inside and out against fourth-seeded Vista del Lago and was the best player on the floor while emerging as one of the top players in program history. He made 11 of 17 shots, including 3 of 4 3-pointers. Munson, a 6-7 freshman, made 6 of 8 shots and had 12 rebounds. One focus in practice will be free-throw shooting. The Cougars made just 14 of 27 from the line, and a lot of championships have been lost due to poor free-throw shooting.
“We’re strong,” Chappell said of team cohesion. “We’ve been through a lot. We’ve had a ton of meetings and have talked through things to get better. We’ve come together, but we’re not done yet. There’s a long road to go.”
Vista del Lago upset top-seeded Vanden in a semifinal and stunned Capital Christian in a section quarterfinal a year ago on a Will FitzPatrick half-court buzzer beater. There were no such fireworks this time as the Cougars pulled away down the stretch.
Grant Bellis scored 17 points for Vista del Lago and Luke Avdalovic had 10. Vista still advances to the NorCal D-III playoffs.