Defeat is a powerful motivator, and Christian Terrell and Solomon Young can speak from experience.
Since earning starting roles as freshmen on Sacramento High School’s boys varsity basketball team, this duo has not lacked effort or statistics. But despite becoming stars through the years on the Oak Park campus, they still seek a Northern California championship.
Looks of despair summarized the previous three playoff campaigns as they sat at the end of the team bench – consoling each other – as the opponent celebrated at Sleep Train Arena.
Older, wiser and better for their experiences, the seniors – Terrell, a guard, and Young, a forward – have propelled Sacramento to its best record in the program’s illustrious history. Ranked No. 1 by The Bee for most of the season, the Dragons (29-1) will host Folsom (27-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the CIF Northern California Open Division playoffs.
Sac High coach Derek Swafford deems the contest “the biggest game in this area in 15 years, maybe ever.”
Sacramento High coach Derek Swafford deems Friday’s contest “the biggest game in this area in 15 years, maybe ever.”
A sense of urgency? Absolutely. For Terrell and Young, their time is now.
“There is no tomorrow,” Young said. “This is it.”
Said Terrell: “This season means everything. We lost last year in the playoffs and made up our mind to not take no for an answer. There’s no satisfaction yet. I think everyone sees our progression as a team and that this is it for us.”
Also taking their final shot at a title are fellow senior guards and four-year varsity players Raphael Durr, Jermaine Henderson and Andrew Williams, all team captains.
Sacramento won multiple Metropolitan Conference titles with Terrell and Young, but momentum usually stalled in the Sac-Joaquin Section and NorCal playoffs. Frustration turned to elation Saturday when Sacramento won the Division II section championship, holding off Antelope 72-68. It was the sixth title for Swafford at Sacramento since 2005 but the first since 2011.
The old coach has been pointing to this season, this moment, since the last one ended, and he challenged Terrell and Young to lead the way.
“I know we’re going to miss Solomon and Christian,” Swafford said. “You feel like you raised them, had them every day in your life for four years. The maturity is there. Christian has grown as a player and a young man. Solomon has grown the same way. You love to see your kids enjoy success. They’ve worked so hard for it.”
Terrell casts an imposing figure charging down the floor, leading the break or finishing it. He’s 6-foot-5 and quick as they come, and he can power inside like a forward. Averaging 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds, Terrell will attend UC Santa Barbara on a scholarship.
Young is 6-7 and plays even bigger. He’s muscular and regal, yet light on his feet. He has dominated in the paint since his freshman season, scoring on inside moves or dunks. He especially loves to defend, blocking shots and yanking down rebounds.
Like Terrell, Young works hard and constantly adds tweaks to his game. He’s now an effective three-point shooter and headed to Iowa State on scholarship. He averages 17.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.
And while many young guns can shoot their mouth as well as the ball, Young is stoic yet plays loud, his coaches say. Same goes for Terrell, who has always played with a broad smile, not to taunt but because he enjoys the sport.
“Christian leads us, and Solomon is a mild-mannered giant,” Swafford said. “There’s no one like Solomon in Northern California. I know those two relish the big moments.”
Terrell and Young, who are magnets to children after home games, also embrace their role as community figures in Oak Park. As a team, the Dragons are involved in community-service projects, including SAC – Student Athletes Caring.
Christian leads us, and Solomon is a mild-mannered giant. There’s no one like Solomon in Northern California. I know those two relish the big moments.
Derek Swafford, Sac High boys basketball coach
Terrell and Young said they take their leadership roles seriously, particularly in the classroom, where they are honors students. Both credit their parents. Terrell’s are fixtures at games, mother Erika and father James, the team scorekeeper.
“I’m extremely thankful for my parents. I owe all of my success to them,” Terrell said. “My mom was a chauffeur for all my events until I learned to drive. My dad was my first coach. He put the ball in my hands and showed me what hard work could do.”
While Young was in the sixth grade, he lost his father to an illness. Young said he had to grow up fast but heaps praise upon his mother, Tina, for raising him. She drives a bus.
“It was confusing at first, losing my dad,” Young said. “My mom ... people don’t understand how hard it is to drive a bus all day. She is definitely an emotional piece of me. I want to make her proud. I know she’s proud of me being a good kid and good student, and I try to take after her by being a good person.”