Folsom isn’t just bracing for Bishop O’Dowd, a powerhouse high school program known for boys basketball excellence since the 1950s.
In one Monday practice, coach Mike Wall had to prepare the Bulldogs for Ivan Rabb, a 6-foot-11 center with guard skills who has coaches from Kentucky, Duke and Cal – and most points between – clamoring for him.
Fourth-seeded Folsom takes on top-seeded O’Dowd in a CIF Northern California Open Division semifinal Tuesday at Laney College. Sacramento-area teams reached the Open title game both years since the CIF created the division as a way to group the top teams, but Sheldon lost to Mitty of San Jose in 2013 and Capital Christian lost to O’Dowd last season.
After Folsom had three consecutive 12-win seasons, the Bulldogs won the NorCal Division II title last year. Playing in the Open Division is a much bigger challenge.
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“This is big; this is the ultimate,” said Wall, Folsom’s longtime coach. “This is the most meaningful, talented opponent we’ve ever faced.”
Folsom’s players are excited. Guard Jordan Ford knows Rabb well from the AAU summer circuit.
“We can’t back down, and we won’t back down,” Ford said.
Beating the state’s top-ranked team, Folsom guard Tre Finch said, would “mean we shocked the world.”
Folsom (28-4) mostly played teams from this region, with an appearance at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Southern California, while O’Dowd (25-4) played a national schedule. Two of the Dragons’ losses were to Oak Hill Academy of Virginia, 45-0 and ranked No. 1 nationally. Another loss was to Montverde Academy of Florida (28-1), ranked No. 2 nationally and the two-time defending champion of the Dick’s Sporting Goods National High School Championship.
O’Dowd has had 55 20-win seasons and won 38 league and 17 North Coast Section titles, including the last four in a row and five of the past six. The Dragons are 1,530-398 since 1954, when the school fielded its first senior class.
Rabb, a McDonald’s All-American, averages 26 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots, but he’s not the Dragons’ only tall player. O’Dowd also has Mike Hauser (7-0), Isaiah Thomas (6-9), Arinze Chidom (6-8) and Alex Zhao (6-6). Rabb’s best friend is Boise State-bound point guard Austin Paris, who holds the school record of 43 points when he made a school-record 12 three-pointers.
More traditional powers – Fourth-seeded Woodcreek, behind standout four-year starting guard Noah Blackwell, plays at top-seeded De La Salle in Concord in a D-I semifinal Tuesday.
De La Salle, relying on suffocating defense, has won four NorCal titles in eight appearances since 2000. Woodcreek played De La Salle in the summer league but didn’t have 6-9 freshman center Jordan Brown, who leads the Timberwolves in scoring (22.7) and rebounding (10.5).
▪ The only area girls teams still playing are the top seeds in D-I. No. 1 McClatchy – led by Gigi Garcia, Lauren Nubla and Jordan Cruz – hosts No. 5 Pittsburg, which is in its first NorCal semifinal since the early 1980s. No. 2 Oak Ridge – led by Grace Derksen, Isamar Conde and Yumi Drossos, hosts third-seeded Berkeley – which has won 12 NorCal titles in 17 appearances since 1990.
▪ In D-II boys, top-seeded Sacramento hosts No. 4 St. Mary’s of Stockton. The Dragons are led by juniors Solomon Young and Christian Terrell, both three-year varsity players. No. 6 Cosumnes Oaks plays at No. 2 Mitty in San Jose in the other semifinal. Behind Jeff Dresser, Eric Toles and Jaaron Stallworth, the Wolfpack upended third-seeded Monterey of Santa Rosa 56-49 on Saturday.
▪ In D-IV boys, No. 4 Capital Christian, led by Justice Shelton-Mosley, plays at top-seeded Marin Catholic of Kentfield. Marin Catholic eliminated Liberty Ranch of Galt 84-69 a week after Capital Christian beat Liberty Ranch 72-57 for the section title.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.
NORCAL BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS
Games at 7 p.m. unless noted otherwise
No. 4 Folsom vs. No. 1 O’Dowd at Laney College, 7:30 p.m.
No. 7 Modesto Christian at No. 6 Serra
Sleep Train Arena, 8 p.m.
No. 4 Woodcreek at No. 1 De La Salle
No. 7 Berkeley at No. 3 San Ramon Valley
Sleep Train Arena, 4 p.m.
No. 4 St. Mary’s at No. 1 Sacramento
No. 6 Cosumnes Oaks at No. 2 Mitty
Sleep Train Arena, noon
No 5 Mission at No. 1 Drake
No. 3 Sierra at No. 2 Campolindo
American Canyon High School, 8 p.m.
No. 4 Capital Christian at No. 1 Marin Catholic
No. 11 Saint Mary’s at No. 2 Cardinal Newman
American Canyon High School, 4 p.m.
No. 4 Brookside Christian at No. 1 Stuart Hall
No. 3 St. Joseph at No. 2 University
American Canyon High School, noon
No. 6 Paradise Adventist at No. 1 Liberty Christian
No. 4 Sacred Heart Prep at No. 1 St. Mary’s
No. 6 St. Ignatius at No. 2 Miramonte
Sleep Train Arena, 6 p.m.
No. 5 Pittsburg at No. 1 McClatchy
No. 3 Berkeley at No. 2 Oak Ridge
Sleep Train Arena, 2 p.m.
No. 5 Saint Francis-Mountain View at No. 1 Dublin
No. 7 Presentation at No. 3 Mitty
Sleep Train Arena, 10 a.m.
No. 4 Acalanes at No. 1 Vanden
No. 3 Valley Christian vs. Bishop O’Dowd, Laney College, 6 p.m.
American Canyon High School, 6 p.m.
No. 4 Brookside Christian at No. 1 Cardinal Newman
No. 6 Piedmont at No. 2 Scotts Valley
American Canyon High School, 2 p.m.
No. 5 University at No. 1 Eastside College Prep
No. 3 St. Joseph at No. 2 Valley Christian
American Canyon High School, 10 a.m.
No. 2 Fall River at No. 1 St. Bernard’s