Joe Davidson

'We're good, really good': Folsom girls basketball is more than just its star recruit

Folsom Bulldogs McKenzie Forbes (0) and Parker Gordon (13) are introduced before the game.
Folsom Bulldogs McKenzie Forbes (0) and Parker Gordon (13) are introduced before the game. Special to The Bee

The anchor talent is clear here.

It's McKenzie Forbes, a 6-foot guard headed to Cal. The Folsom High School senior dazzles with the ball and with her smile. She'll play in the McDonald's All-American game because that showcase event only takes premier recruits.

But Forbes isn't the only reason the Bulldogs are in the midst of a record season, though she is at the forefront.

Check out the supporting cast. It again worked seamlessly with Forbes in methodically unraveling a talented Cosumnes Oaks team on Tuesday night in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal, rolling 80-43 despite half the team laboring with a flu or cold.

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Folsom Bulldogs Shayley Harris (22) shoots the ball during the second quarter. Brian Baer Special to The Bee

Big, medium or small, Folsom brings it at all angles.

Shayley Harris is a 6-6 senior center headed to UCLA. She's a shot-blocking marvel, a lane clogger who is effective offensively around the basket. The transfer from Oak Ridge soaks up coaching instruction, eager to excel.

Charity Gallegos plays point guard for Folsom, as does Forbes. Gallegos is 5-1, and is as quick of a baseline-to-baseline player as there is in the section. She can be a one-woman press breaker with her dribbling and driving ability. She also makes 3-point shots.

The role players are in abundance, including 5-9 junior guard Parker Gordon, the team's top defender in terms of steals. Hanna Beckman is a 5-10 junior guard who can dribble behind her back to lose a defender, drive or take charges. Devry Millett is a 5-10 shooting guard who adds to the team balance.

Blend it all together with the coaching duo of head man Lynn Wolking and lead assistant Sterling Forbes, father of McKenzie, and it's a brewing powerhouse. Folsom is a school-record 27-3, winner of 12 consecutive games, and in a section final for the first time.

Forbes had 24, Gallegos 16, Gordon 14, Beckman 10 and Harris eight. Good luck defending that.

Folsom will on Saturday night at Pacific take on storied St. Mary's of Stockton, winner of 10 consecutive section banners, the last five in Division I. The Rams aren't invincible, but darn close. Under longtime coach Tom Gonsalves, they are 25-2 with losses to the top-ranked team in New York and to the top-ranked team in the country in Mitty of San Jose. It'll take Forbes at her best and the Bulldogs at theirs to topple the Rams.

"Every year, we write on the board things we want to accomplish: beat Oak Ridge, win league, make the playoffs," assistant coach Forbes said. "And beat St. Mary's. They're so good – athletic, fast, solid fundamentally. It's the ultimate challenge."

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Folsom Bulldogs McKenzie Forbes (0) drives to the basket during the second quarter. Brian Baer Special to The Bee

That Folsom has come this far is testament to program growth. The Bulldogs a decade ago were more gums than snarl and bite. Folsom went 8-19 in 2011, followed by seasons of 7-20 and 5-22, all under Wolking, who found out the hard way that patience is a virtue.

"We're a long ways from where we were when we took over nine years ago," Wolking said. "We finally got some talent and kids wanting to be Bulldogs. Then McKenzie came along and that changed everything.

"The team chemistry, the team character is excellent. We're together. That's what makes us. We're exciting to watch. I want a player to have an and-one play and to have fist-bumps with teammates. We love that."

Said assistant coach Forbes, "We're good, really good. We have some star players and some unsung heroes having good years, a complete team."

Forbes plays like a coach with flair, seeing the floor and plays as they develop. And she talks like one, too.

"We're feeling great," Forbes said. "Everyone is excited. We're taking it one game at a time, but there's a lot of talk about us, some hype, and we talked all season about staying grounded, to focus on what we have to do."

She added, "we have a lot of weapons, definitely. That makes us hard to stop. We can go inside or out, hit 3s, run, play defense. That's our biggest asset – versatility."

Gallegos' ballhandling ability allows Forbes to play all over. Forbes can dominate a game with the dribble, but Gallegos has added a new element.

"Gallegos has been terrific, and in high school girls basketball, a ballhandler is a tremendous asset," Forbes said. "She takes a lot of pressure off of me. And Shay, she's a great teammate, and her size inside helps. Running into her in the paint, that's all the detour you need."

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The Folsom Bulldogs Varsity Girls Varsity basketball team celebrates their 80-43 win over the Cosumnes Oaks Wolfpack to win the SFL championship, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. Brian Baer Special to The Bee
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