The star power is immense for Woodcreek High School boys basketball this championship-chasing season.
It starts with four-year starting guard Noah Blackwell, he of the steady dribble and pass, smooth jumper and high-rise ’do. His running mate of great promise is a long-limbed 6-foot-9 freshman named Jordan Brown, who competes well beyond his years in terms of poise and skill.
But what really binds The Bee-ranked No. 3 Timberwolves are the unsung performers that dot the roster, the grinders who gladly contribute the dirty details needed to achieve. With the stars and the complementary parts working beautifully as one, Woodcreek outlasted top-ranked Folsom 60-57 on Wednesday night in a Sierra Foothill League thriller in Placer County.
The teams will finish as co-champions of this realigned league should each take care of business in the final two regular-season contests before awaiting the Sac-Joaquin Section playoff bracket announcement next Wednesday. Woodcreek (21-4, 9-1) is slotted for Division I and Folsom (21-4, 9-1) is likely in D-II, where it is the defending champion.
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Blackwell, headed to Long Beach State on scholarship, had another well-rounded game, scoring 13 points, collecting six rebounds and firing six assists. Brown scored 26 points on a variety of inside shots, jumpers and free throws, and he pulled in 13 rebounds to go with six blocked shots. Folsom braced for those two leaders, and the Bulldogs had to send waves of defenders at Brown with standout center Colin Russell sidelined by a bad ankle.
But no one can completely prepare for the unsung parts, and Folsom can relate as it is has also been defined by such components. For Woodcreek, this group includes seniors Grady Collins and Leonard Nelson, which is doubly fitting since this was Senior Night, the Timberwolves’ final regular-season home contest.
Collins had a put-back shot that just beat the third-quarter buzzer for a 47-43 Woodcreek lead, and his two free throws with 12.9 seconds to go made it 60-57, giving him six points for the game. Nelson, also a football star, drew a charge with 2:24 to go and his team nursing a 55-50 lead. He didn’t score, but he didn’t have to. Malcolm Thomas had nine points, and Timberwolves teammates Thomas Austejford and Austin English provided effort and grit.
“All of those guys absolutely make us a good team,” said veteran Woodcreek coach Paul Hayes. “We have other kids who don’t play a lot, but they compete and give us everything in practice. You need guys like that.”
Blackwell agreed, saying, “It’s not just Jordan Brown and me. Everyone here deserves credit. They all work just as hard in the gym.”
Blackwell looked spent. He soaked in the atmosphere, the overflow crowd, the spirited Black Mob rooting section that was festive and creative.
“I loved it,” he said, beaming.
He also savored winning the rematch between these clubs. Folsom won the first meeting 57-53 as guard Jordan Ford took over late. Though Ford had another strong game with 26 points, some of his late shots rimmed out when they went down the first time around.
“Jordan Ford played his heart out,” Blackwell said. “That’s my man. We’ve known each other since the third grade. It’s always been fun.”
Tre Finch scored 13 points and Lukas Hendricks 12 for Folsom, which lost to a section team for the first since the end of the 2012-13 season.
The SFL has defined fun, too.
“I told (Folsom coach) Mike Wall to get ready for a fun league, that the energy is great. Folsom and Oak Ridge are great additions to the SFL,” Hayes said.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.