Everyone was gassed after this one, the coaches included.
In a rough-and-tumble high school basketball game with plenty of skill and flair mixed in, Bee No. 1 Folsom pulled away from No. 2 Woodcreek 57-53 on Tuesday night in a Sierra Foothill League showdown every bit as good as projected.
The visiting Timberwolves applied considerable defensive muscle early, stalling the host Bulldogs on breaks and halfcourt sets. And Folsom reversed the trend in the second half, scrambling to get back in it, and then salted it away with poise down the stretch with free throws. Effort and sheer grit were the theme here.
“This was a man’s game, not for the faint of heart,” Folsom coach Mike Wall said. “Woodcreek took it to us early. They came in well-prepared and very defensive-minded and really made us work for everything.”
The buildup of the game drew the attention of Kings star DeMarcus Cousins, who soaked in the action, explaining, “I love a good high school game.”
The physical aspect came in many forms for Folsom (16-3, 5-0), be it guard Josiah Deguara muscling in on drives or defending, or Colin Russell banging inside against Woodcreek’s impressive 6-foot-9 freshman center Jordan Brown (who scored 16 points), or relentless guard Jared Wall (11 points) competing as if every Folsom possession were his last, or forward Lukas Hendricks, like Deguara a Bee All-Metro football grinder for Folsom’s 16-0 CIF State Division I champion football team. Folsom’s Tre Finch scored 13 points.
Hendricks, a 6-5 inside banger who can run the floor, was cornered by Utah football coaches after the game, and they praised his ability to move up and down the floor and crash into foes.
The skill and flair came in the form of Jordan Ford of Folsom and Noah Blackwell of Woodcreek (16-4, 4-1), smooth Bee All-Metro guards bent on leading their teams to championships. Good friends who have played against each other or with each other for years in the Amateur Athletic Union circuit, Blackwell sizzled early and Ford late. Blackwell had 18 points, scoring every which way, and Ford 12, but it was the manner in which he scored those points that mattered. Scoreless in the first half, Ford scored his first bucket on a nifty baseline jumper after regaining possession of the ball at the third-quarter buzzer, and took over in the fourth.
“If we’re down in the fourth,” Ford explained, “I know I need to turn it on. I had to find a way to help us win.”
Said Blackwell, “I knew Jordan would do that, knew he’d take over. It was a great game. I wanted it badly, but we get another chance at them at our place (Feb. 11).”
There was also a sportsmanship element here. Jared Wall and Woodcreek’s Thomas Austefjord crashed into each other on a play, and both were assessed technical fouls for jawing about it. When the game ended, they embraced and talked it out, departing with smiles.
“We’re all passionate about this game, play hard and let our emotions get carried away, but we’re good enough to talk it out after the game,” Jared Wall said. “That’s how it should be.”
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.