The two best high school boys basketball teams in Northern California reside in the Sacramento region, one in Placer County and the other on the south part of town, just a hair north of Elk Grove.
On Saturday night at Pacific, the game of the year came down to the wire, and it was decided by the top talent in all of NorCal, on the free-throw line with an anxious crowd bearing down on him.
Jordan Brown, Woodcreek’s unflappable 6-foot-11 national recruit, calmly made two free throws with 0.1 seconds left, in between timeouts to ice him, and the second-seeded Timberwolves nipped the No. 1 Sheldon Huskies 69-68 in a dramatic Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game.
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On Sunday, the NorCal seedings will be released, and all indications are that Woodcreek and Sheldon will be the top two seeds, a flip-flop from their section seeds.
With Bellarmine of San Jose losing, just its second defeat, to rival Mitty of San Jose in the Central Coast Section Open final, a Woodcreek-Sheldon rematch in the NorCal Open final on March 18 at Santa Clara is more reality than fantasy. Provided these programs continue to win, of course.
Brown will be a draw here, there and anywhere, but Woodcreek and basketball purists in general will hope he plays more than he sits. This was a tightly officiated game with 44 fouls that halted the flow and energy after 11 title games in other divisions here largely went fast and smooth. Brown had no field goals in the first half and three fouls. He picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, sidelining him the remainder of the period. Sheldon built a 10-point lead, only to lose it under a barrage of 3-point shooting.
Brown finished with 13 points, 13 below his average, in part because of Sheldon’s tough defense and his foul trouble. But he scored when it mattered most.
He drove baseline and curled around a defender right up on him, and then fell. Foul? No foul? Brown thought so. Woodcreek thought so. The referee working baseline thought so. Sheldon disagreed. Doesn’t matter. Brown still had the make one free throw to tie and two to win, a ton of pressure for anyone at any level.
The big kid delivered.
“I felt great,” he said of the shots. “On that last play, I had so much adrenaline. I knew I would come through for my team. It was hard to be on the bench (with foul trouble), but very sweet at the end. My teammates really stepped up.”
Said Woodcreek coach Paul Hayes, “That’s a D-I athlete right there! Amazing. What a great high school basketball team. It’s an absolute shame a team had to lose. You could make a great argument that the two best teams in Northern California were here.”
Sheldon coach Joey Rollings was upset with the final call, saying, “There was no foul at the end. We played great defense. It’s disappointing.”
As far as making a NorCal title run, Rollings said, “We’re as good as anyone. We’ve got to produce. If we don’t, we’re done.”
Brown is the headliner for Woodcreek but he is hardly a one-man show. There are guards, stoppers, rebounders and playmakers. Tyrell Roberts had 23 points, the senior guard making four 3-pointers. Backcourt mate Jackson Hughes had 20 points. How solid of a team? Reserve guard Delis Boggs-Smith calmly hit a 3-pointer with for a 67-66 lead with 42.5 seconds left. LJ Williams answered for Sheldon with a putback with 9.2 seconds left and a 68-67 lead, setting up the final play to Brown.
Williams and standout Sheldon guards Drew Cobb and Elishja Duplechan each scored 16.