Joe Davidson

Prep notes: Area basketball teams gear up for a NorCal championship run

Rio Linda High girls basketball coach Jerry Huffhines, right, hopes he can lead his team back to Sleep Train Arena to play for the Northern California title. ... Huffhines accepts congratulations after his team won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship on Friday, March 4, 2016 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Rio Linda High girls basketball coach Jerry Huffhines, right, hopes he can lead his team back to Sleep Train Arena to play for the Northern California title. ... Huffhines accepts congratulations after his team won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship on Friday, March 4, 2016 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. jvillegas@sacbee.com

The coach was spent late Friday night. His voice was hoarse and sweat poured down his temples.

This was Jerry Huffhines, the longtime Rio Linda High School girls basketball mentor who led the celebration at Sleep Train Arena after the Knights beat Christian Brothers to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship. Huffhines said he is recharged for another championship run – this time in the Northern California Regionals – with hopes of a returning to the NBA venue.

And there was his daughter, Brandy. The junior guard battled the flu and waves of CBS defenders and insists she’s eager for a NorCal run, too.

“That was special,” Huffhines said of winning the section banner, adding, “but we’re not done yet.”

Rio Linda is one 11 girls teams and seven boys teams that start NorCal play on Wednesday. Jesuit and Antelope have byes in boys D-I and II, respectively. In girls play, St. Francis (D-I) and Antelope (D-II) have byes. Those four teams play Saturday.

Seeded fourth in D-III, Rio Linda (20-11), with 10 losses to league champions, plays No. 13 Pinole Valley (17-13).

“If we play hard, play together, we can keep winning,” Brandy Huffhines said. “I think that’s what a lot of teams are thinking.”

Double trouble – St. Francis center Lauren Craig has piled up double-doubles while also achieving a career milestone double.

The 6-foot-2 senior center has produced 12 consecutive double-doubles – points and rebounds – and 27 overall for the Troubadours (26-5). This season, Craig eclipsed 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for her career. Craig averages 17.3 points and 13.8 rebounds for St. Francis, the girls’ top seed in D-I.

“Lauren’s been terrific,” St. Francis coach Vic Pitton said. “She’s improved because she’s worked so hard. She used to fall down a lot. She worked on her feet. Just an excellent player.”

McLain out – Rusty McLain has been relieved as baseball coach at Pleasant Grove High School before the Eagles played a game. McLain confirmed the firing in a text: “I’m crushed. I poured everything I had into that program.”

An off-campus coach preparing for his second season, McLain had been under fire by parents of players since last season, some disagreeing with his personality and coaching tactics. Pleasant Grove administrators had talked to him about issues. Reached by The Bee, would not comment on the record about the dismissal. Longtime assistant coach Dan Boyle is the interim coach.

Tenner out – Jason Tenner has been dismissed as football coach at Ponderosa, fueled in part by a parental pushing for a change dating back several years. The pleas to the El Dorado Union High School District included allegations of intimidation tactics on players, of which Tenner denied.

Tenner went 40-53 in nine seasons, beating top-ranked Grant in the section playoffs his first season. Ponderosa went 2-8 in 2015. Tenner will remain at Ponderosa as an economics teacher.

Fisk to Stanford – Davis football star Tucker Fisk has given a verbal commitment to play tight end at Stanford on scholarship. The 6-4, 265-pound Fisk, also a standout swimmer, will be following in his father’s path. Jason Fisk was a Bee All-Metro defensive lineman at Davis in 1989 before excelling at Stanford and playing 12 years in the NFL. Jason Fisk is a Davis assistant coach.

Cal-Hi honors – Running back Ryan Robards of Elk Grove, The Bee’s 2015 Player of the Year, and Jake Jeffrey of Folsom, The Bee’s Offensive Player of the Year, earned first-team Academic All-State honors by Cal-Hi Sports. Both are 4.0 students. Robards, a multi-purpose player, is headed to Pacific to play baseball, and Jeffrey, a quarterback, is off to Cal Poly.

Second-team honorees include Granite Bay safety Sam Cusano and Folsom left tackle Kooper Richardson. Elk Grove receiver Gavin Reinwald and El Dorado receiver Chris Volek were All-State junior honor roll picks.

The Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson tells you the significance of area teams winning Sac-Joaquin Section basketball championships. The Northern California Regional tournament starts this week.

Storytelling images of the Sac-Joaquin Basketball Section Playoffs by Sacramento Bee photographers Hector Amezcua, Randel Benton and José Luis Villegas.

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