Two games in, and the Sac-Joaquin Section basketball playoffs are heating up.
In Division I play, the upper seeds prevailed, setting up girls semifinal meetings Tuesday that include two overwhelming favorites, and two highly anticipated boys semifinals Wednesday featuring The Bee’s top three ranked teams all season.
Semifinal matches for Divisions I-V will be held at home sites, unlike past seasons. The section finals are Friday at Saturday at Pacific in Stockton.
Bee No. 1 Folsom is seeded second in girls D-I and faces upstart Cosumnes Oaks, fresh off its greatest program victory with a triumph of storied Oak Ridge.
Can the Wolfpack completely turn the field upside down with a win over a Folsom team led by Cal-bound McKenzie Forbes, a McDonald’s All-American guard, and 6-foot-6 UCLA-commit Shayley Harris, not to mention blur-quick guard Charity Gallegos?
“We’ll play our best,” said Cosumnes Oaks coach Kevin Scott, whose team is led by guard Jasmine Hess and forward Jordyn Rosette.
Looming in the other half of the bracket is top-seeded St. Mary’s, winners of a record 18 section banners, including the last five in Division I. The nationally ranked Rams of Stockton are led by McDonald’s All-American Aquira Decosta, a versatile 6-2 senior headed to Baylor.
In boys, top-seeded Sheldon hosts No. 4 Folsom and third-seeded Capital Christian heads to No. 2 Modesto Christian. Folsom started the season ranked No. 1 by The Bee, then was replaced early by Capital Christian, which was soon replaced by Sheldon.
All four D-I semifinalists expect to be pulled into the prestigious Northern California Open Division, which is further proof of how strong this section and region has become.
How Folsom deals with Sheldon’s guard trio of Dale Currie, Dom Johnson and Justin Nguyen will be telling, just as how Sheldon attacks Folsom center Mason Forbes.
Still alive – With the Open Division expecting to include four section boys teams, Franklin, Jesuit and Oak Ridge are seemingly still alive for NorCal D-I bracket action despite losing Friday in close games to higher seeds.
For now, those teams have to wait, as NorCal seedings won’t be announced until March 4.
In girls, McClatchy and Oak Ridge could also end up in D-I NorCal play after losing Thursday to higher seeds. Reputation counts this time of year, and those are accomplished programs.
Respect from the top – Coaches surely know how to pump up their brackets and opponents.
Days after Jesuit coach Jon Rotz called Lincoln of Stockton, “the best 10-seed in section history,” Modesto Christian coach Brice Fantazia heaped praise on Jesuit after beating the Marauders 67-54. He said Jesuit is, “the best seven seed in section history.”
Jesuit lost star 6-8 forward Elias King for the second half with a shoulder injury, though he expects to play if the Marauders are selected for the NorCal tournament.
Sweet redemption – The Del Oro girls had lost seven consecutive section playoff games to Sacramento dating to 2005, but the tide turned Thursday in Loomis.
The No. 4 Golden Eagles beat the No. 5 Dragons 44-41 in D-II play to earn a shot at top-seeded Antelope. Maddie Parry had 16 points, including 12 from the free-throw line, and Jenna Duley scored 11.
Second-year Shawn Huckaby has admirably taken over for beloved coach Mike Takayama, one of the section’s great champions and sportsmen best known for his dignity and boasting about his teenage days when he sported Popeye-sized biceps. Takayama died of a heart attack in the summer of 2016 after joining Bill Baxter, formerly of El Camino, as the only two girls coaches in section history to win 600 games. Takayama’s wife, Kathy, was recognized last week by the Kings as a “Hometown Hero” for her community service.
Upset city – What’s a tournament without some upsets? Foothill and Rio Americano did their part in boys games Friday.
In D-III, sixth-seeded Rio Americano bounced No. 3 Vanden 57-51 to set up a semifinal meeting with second-seeded Beyer of Modesto. Three-point shooting by Chris Sheehy (16 points) and steady guard play by Jake Paxton (14 points) led the way for the Raiders.
In D-IV, No. 9 Foothill stunned top-seeded Sonora 73-63 to set up a semifinal meeting with No. 4 West Campus. Willie Goebel had 30 points, and Adrian Loggins and Tyrel Morris each scored 14 for the Mustangs, who started the season 0-5 and 1-12 but have won seven of eight and finished in the top three of Pioneer Valley League play to make the postseason.
They are 12-17 overall under second-year coach Stephen Calton, who was a member of the program’s 2003 state championship team.