Joe Davidson

Folsom Bulldogs embracing championship warmup run with ambitious scheduling

It’s an experienced lineup, heavy on guards who can dribble, drive, distribute and defend. And it is a team anchored inside by a young man with the best hair anywhere.

The Folsom Bulldogs ramped up their high school basketball schedule this winter, taking on all comers in what they fully expect to be a championship season. Not just a Sierra Foothill League championship or a Sac-Joaquin Section banner but those bigger pieces of hardware that decorate a trophy case.

Specifically, Folsom is, to a man, on board for a full-out Northern California and CIF State Championship push.

The Bulldogs, ranked second by The Bee, showcased some championship grit Friday night, blasting past No. 4 Granite Bay 62-39 in an SFL game, and then plenty more some 23 hours later, holding off Saint Francis of Mountain View 57-53 in a battle of highly ranked NorCal programs in the Father Kelly Tribute at Jesuit.

“There’s nothing bad from playing great competition,” Folsom senior guard Jared Wall said. “We’re getting better. We’re expecting a deep playoff run. These wins are huge momentum.”

The momentum started in the season opener, a 53-51 victory over NorCal preseason No. 1 Modesto Christian. There was also a 79-78 triumph of Bee preseason No. 1 Sheldon, followed by a strong showing at the national MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs. Withstanding the ballhandling and three-point shooting – and 25 points – from guard Curtis Witt, Folsom relished its triumph of Saint Francis (9-2), top-ranked by the San Jose Mercury News.

Folsom (13-2) shared the ball, made the extra pass, ran the break, hit jumpers, played inspired defense, then expertly ran out the clock late.

Senior guard Jordan Ford, The Bee’s two-time Player of the Year, led the way on offense as a ballhandler and distributor, and he scored eight points. Senior guard Tre Finch had 22 to continue his hot run lately, and Alec Andrews, yet another poised senior guard, had 10. Sophomore post Mason Forbes, he of the ceiling-high ’fro that bounces as he bounds down the floor, provided shot-blocking and rebounding, particularly down the stretch to stall any Lancers rally. Folsom came in ranked third in NorCal by MaxPreps, and Saint Francis is seventh.

“We’ve got a great group of guys who play well together,” Ford said. “We expect nothing less than to play well and to play into late March.”

Wall is the son of veteran coach Mike Wall, who has led the Bulldogs to four section titles, a NorCal championship and a berth in the CIF finals since 2008.

No. 5 Jesuit 60, El Cerrito 55 – Two late driving baskets by Ethan Pangelinan and an Armoni Rivers corner three with 38 seconds left lifted the Marauders past the Gauchos in the Father Kelly finale. The Marauders led big, then played terrific second-half defense in allowing 20 points to the longtime North Coast Section power. Sophomore guard Jake Virga scored 19 points for Jesuit, including five three-pointers. Pangelinan had 16 and Rivers 12. Sayeed Pridgett led El Cerrito with 21 points, and Tre Gray had 19.

No. 4 Granite Bay 63, Monte Vista 56 – Senior guard Charlie Tooley scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies held off the powerhouse Danville Cougars. Ryan Smith had 14 for Granite Bay, including three three-pointers, and Darren Nelson added 12. Austin Fadal had 18 and Spencer Lashells 17 for Monte Vista, ranked 11th in NorCal by MaxPreps. Granite Bay is rated eighth.

Newark Memorial 65, No. 7 Capital Christian 54 – Decuurey Brown scored 16 points and Mazae Boyd 13 to lift the Cougars of the North Coast Section past the ranked Capital Christian Cougars, perhaps the Division III favorite in the Sac-Joaquin Section. Conor Jeffery had 13 for Capital Christian and Austin Alexander 11.

Pleasant Grove 58, No. 20 Foothill 33 – Israel Quinn scored 15 points, all on three-pointers, and Domonique Johnson and Arjen Dhillon contributed 14 and 12 points, respectively, to power the Eagles past the Mustangs. Foothill went cold in the second quarter with three points and had just three field goals in the fourth quarter.