Joe Davidson

Folsom boys beat Jesuit, reach Sac-Joaquin Section D-I final

Folsom’s Martis Johnson blocks a pass intended for Jesuit’s Armoni Rivers (21) during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal game at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Folsom’s Martis Johnson blocks a pass intended for Jesuit’s Armoni Rivers (21) during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal game at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. jvillegas@sacbee.com

When Jared Wall made a three-pointer – NBA range, thank you very much – he clasped his hands together and looked to the heavens. Or at least the rafters of Sleep Train Arena, which still seemed like a good mile up.

The Folsom High School senior guard expressed relief that the shot went down for a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, putting the game out of hand, with more prizes to seize. The defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion Bulldogs overcame a sluggish first half and a gritty Jesuit effort to prevail 55-37 Wednesday night at Sleep Train Arena to set up a whopper of a rematch.

Top-seeded Folsom (27-3) will take on second-seeded Modesto Christian (29-1) for the title Saturday night. Modesto Christian, big, fast, skilled and well-coached, has won 29 consecutive games, losing only to Folsom 53-51 in the closing seconds of a season opener.

The Bulldogs are skilled, fundamentally sound, experienced and plenty motivated. The Folsom coaches – Mike Wall and Matt Mills especially – may fume at missed assignments and poor shots every so often, but they don’t doubt the effort. That effort generally starts with Wall, the coach’s son.

“They have a good group of guys, and it’ll be a test for us,” Jared Wall said of the rematch. “That first game could’ve gone either way.”

As for the three and triumphant look to the rafters, Wall explained, “I hit that and knew we’d win, that we had it. We had a rough first half, but we’ve been here before. We had some nerves, but we kept with it.”

Sleep Train experience served Folsom well. It’s natural for prep teams to feel the jitters in such a spacious venue. The depth of field is different, the sound of the ball bouncing is different, the rewards are much greater. What feels right for Folsom is savoring victory.

On Saturday, Folsom’s core group, headed by Wall and four-year starting point guard Jordan Ford, will compete in its eighth game at Sleep Train, a run that includes a section D-II championship, a NorCal D-II banner and last season’s title win over Sheldon.

Jesuit led 16-6 after one and 21-16 at halftime. Then Folsom woke up, using a 15-0 run, and an overall 39-8 run, to take control.

Ford was at the forefront – passing, scoring, leading. He had 23 points, Wall 10 and fellow guard Tre Finch eight. Mason Forbes had an emphatic follow dunk in the fourth, and he played strong defense against Jesuit’s leading scorer, Malik Duffy, who had seven points.

Modesto Christian beat Sheldon 74-67 in the earlier semifinal as Christian Ellis had 32 points and eight rebounds. Modesto Christian seeks its ongoing record 18th title.

All section semifinalists advance to the NorCal tournament that starts next week.

Antelope 66, Vanden 59 – Kai Tease had 25 points, and Tim Strijaous had 12 points and eight rebounds to power the Titans into the D-II finals for the fourth time since 2011.

Sacramento 88, Whitney 57 – Four-year varsity cornerstones Solomon Young and Christian Terrell had 26 points and 20, respectively, to power the Bee No. 1-ranked Dragons in a D-II semifinal. Sacramento is in a section final for the ninth time since 2005, all under coach Derek Swafford, with five titles.

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