Mike Wall was armed with power tools and a box of screws some 40 minutes before tipoff Friday night.
The Folsom High School basketball coach was fastening loose ends in the gym along the scorer’s table, cracking, “This is what a head coach does!”
Wall then ditched his sweat suit and tools, slipped on his suit and game face and got after it, much like his team did in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal.
Seeded second, the Bulldogs used a late 10-0 run to get past visiting No. 7 Franklin 51-47, though their exasperated leader was still pondering ways to put the screws to his young bunch in a mandate to be even better, more crisp and sound.
Mistakes — cross-court passes in crunch time! — had Wall fuming. But he also likes what he sees in the big picture.
Wall has crafted quite a group, one that is a victory away from landing in the program’s sixth finals appearance since 2008. The success has come under a coach who demands fundamentals and all-out effort. The effort is there. The fundamentals — no more cross-court passes! — will iron out.
Either that or season over, especially since defending champion Modesto Christian feeds off mistakes. MC, seeded third, visits Folsom in a semifinal Wednesday for a shot to play for the title at Golden 1 Center. Modesto Christian has a record 19 section banners to its credit.
“That was the worst shooting performance we’ve had all season,” Wall said. “I can’t explain it. Tonight was a disaster.”
But the tenacity was there, and that’s why the season is still alive for a team that graduated five starters that led the Bulldogs deep into the CIF Northern California Open Division postseason.
“The grit from the guys was there,” Wall said. “They never quit. They could’ve dropped their heads, felt sorry for themselves, sulked because of our shooting, but they kept grinding.”
Jalen Scott led Folsom with 14 points, and Malik Rose and DeShawn Lynch had 10 each. Dylan Davis had seven, Tiler Fears six, and key cogs Cameron Wall and Palane Binder had two points each, in addition to providing ball handling and defense.
Freshman guard Davion Wright led Franklin with 16 points, and Leland Estacio had 14. Estacio is the only senior in the rotation for coach Ken Manfredi, and he goes down as one of the program’s all-time greats. His big outing earlier this season led to a victory over Sheldon, snapping the Huskies’ 56-game Delta League winning streak. Sheldon looms as the D-I favorite as the top seed.
Estacio’s 3-pointer with 2:47 left gave Franklin (19-10) its final lead at 42-39. Folsom (24-5) went on that sealing 10-0 run behind fastbreak buckets by Rose, Scott, Fears, Rose again, and two Lynch free throws.
Folsom features a lineup of pesky and skilled guards and a load of a guy who can also get up and down the court in Lynch. He is a national recruit 6-foot-4, 270-pound junior who was a star lineman on the school’s CIF State Division 1-AA championship team.
Lynch has soft hands, fast feet for his size and can spin down the lane. He had 11 rebounds.
Wall getting heated is no new thing. He coaches as hard as his team plays, and he’s done it for years, including his stint at Foothill. Before retiring as Folsom athletic director, Tom Doherty brought Wall over from Foothill in 2006, and in his second season, the Bulldogs won a section title. They repeated in 2009 and won again in 2014 (in D-II) and in 2015 before falling to Modesto Christian in 2016 in the final.
“I called (Foothill athletic director) Frank Negri and asked about Wall,” Doherty recalled during Friday’s game. “He said we’d love him. Said he was old school like us. He is. He’s demanding, and he’s good.”
Other Division I quarterfinal games:
No. 1 Sheldon 79, No. 9 Davis 57
No. 3 Modesto Christian 81, No. 6 Capital Christian 52
No. 5 Oak Ridge 63, No. 4 Jesuit 59
Section semifinals, Wednesday:
Oak Ridge at Sheldon
Modesto Christian at Folsom
Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson: firstname.lastname@example.org, @SacBee_JoeD, sacbee.com/high-school.