In November, Christian Terrell and Solomon Young had a letter-of-intent signing party at Sacramento High School. The seniors were moved to see who came by for a peek and revel in their moment.
It was Jordan Ford, the floor-leader senior guard for Folsom. Ford got to know Terrell and Young well from years of summer circuit competition, and from appreciating their game and journey from afar.
Wouldn’t it be cool, the trio confessed during a behind-the-scenes chat, if they could face off in a high school game at long last? It’s finally going to happen.
On Sunday, 10 section commissioners and scores of others met to place teams in Northern California Regional tournament brackets. The elite Open division features The Bee’s top two teams all season: Sacramento and Folsom. The powerhouse programs will meet in an opener on Friday at 7 p.m. at the famed Dave Hotell Pavilion in possibly the most anticipated playoff of regional teams in area history.
Sacramento (29-1) earned the No. 4 seed after beating Antelope for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena, the team’s sixth such title under coach Derek Swafford since 2007. A repeat Open team, Folsom (27-4) is the No. 5 seed after falling to Modesto Christian in the D-I section final. Modesto Christian (30-1) is the Open second seed, having avenged its loss to Folsom.
De La Salle of Concord (28-2) is the top seed, sporting an unbeaten record against Northern California competition. Sheldon (22-5) is seeded No. 6, having lost to Modesto Christian in a section semifinal, and will play No. 3 Moreau Catholic of Hayward (25-4). Moreau Catholic earned a higher seed than Sacramento because of a head-to-head victory in January at the Martin Luther King Classic at Cal.
“It’s wide open, and anyone can win it,” Swafford said.
That’s the general narrative for every bracket in most years because it’s the safe, easy thing to say. But it rings true here because the Open Division does not have a towering figure roaming the floor. Whether it was Aaron Gordon of Mitty of San Jose or Ivan Rabb of Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland, those players and teams dominated the Open field in recent years, emerging as runaway champions.
Gordon became a first-round pick of the Orlando Magic in 2014 and dazzled in last month’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest. Rabb is enjoying a stellar freshman season at Cal.
The Open field doesn’t even feature a 5-star national recruit, though it certainly isn’t devoid of talent. Terrell, Young and Ford are each four-year varsity starting cornerstones.
Terrell, a 6-foot-5 guard, is headed to UC Santa Barbara on scholarship. Young, a powerful 6-7 forward with three-point range, is off to Iowa State. And the ever-poised 6-1 Ford, The Bee’s two-time Player of the Year, is bound for Saint Mary’s.
This showdown won’t just decide who advances and who goes home. It also could decide The Bee’s Player of the Year. Will it be Ford again? Terrell? Young? Terrell and Young?
And what if Sheldon’s leading scorer – Matt Manning, a skilled 6-6 wing – leads a big Huskies charge in the Open Division? Will he he emerge as The Bee Player of the Year front-runner?
The St. Mary’s of Stockton girls (27-0) nabbed the top seed in the Open Division as they seek a repeat. St. Francis (26-5), which lost to St. Mary’s in the section D-I final on Saturday, received a bye as the top seed in Division I. Oak Ridge (27-2) which fell to St. Francis in the section semifinals, is the D-I No. 3 seed, opening at home on Wednesday against No. 14 McClymonds of Oakland (12-10).
The Jesuit boys (25-5), section semifinal losers to Folsom, are seeded second in D-I opposite Bellarmine of San Jose.
In D-II, No. 4 Antelope (23-8), which fell to Sacramento in section championship play, will open at home Saturday against No. 5 Newark Memorial (21-9).
In D-IV, No. 4 West Campus (26-5) will host No. 13 Corning (22-7) on Wednesday.
The Antelope girls (29-2) are seeded third in D-II, having lost to top-seeded Vanden in the section final. D-V section champion Capital Christian (22-7), seeded fifth, will host No. 12 Durham (20-8) on Wednesday.