By Bill Paterson
So is Josiah Turner's high school basketball career over?
Lots of folks were speculating when the Arizona recruit was nowhere to be seen tonight in Sacramento High's Metro Conference showdown at Burbank.
No. 2 Sacramento (9-3, 1-1) could have used the Arizona recruit's 22.3 points.
No. 11 Burbank (10-4, 1-1) beat the Dragons 78-74 in what is believed to be the Titans' first boys basketball win over Sacramento in at least 10 years.
Sacramento coach Derek Swafford offered little to solve the mystery.
"We've got an internal thing we're dealing with," Swafford said.
When asked if Turner's absence might extend longer than one game, Swafford added, "That's for me to decide."
We tried to call Josiah's mother, Doris Ward, to find out why Josiah missed tonight's game. She answered, then hung up before we could finish our first question.
Meanwhile, the "Where's Josiah?" comments spread like wildfire through the packed Burbank gym.
As one of the nation's top recruits this summer, Turner has been subject of a number of rumors, most unfounded.
During the summer the talk was of Turner not returning to Sac High to enroll at higher profile basketball school, such as Findlay Prep in Nevada.
The latest, greatest on the rumor mill: Turner isn't going to academically qualify for Arizona, the school to which he signed a letter of intent in November, and will play professionally next season in Europe.
Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell wasn't sure what was going on when the Sac High team arrived tonight without Turner.
"When I didn't see him, I said, 'What the heck,'" Ferrell said. "I figured he was going to do the superman routine (and come in late). But when I didn't see him warming up, I told my assistant, 'Hey, he's really not here.'"
Burbank star Vick West Jr., who had 25 points and 10 rebounds, said Turner's absence surprised him but put the blame clearly on his rival.
"If he doesn't show up, that's on him," West said. "That's his team. If he had shown up, it would have been better because now that's going to be (Sac's) excuse why we won."
Ferrell said it's a "what if" he's willing to live with.
"I don't know what the outcome would have been if Josiah played, but my team was here," Ferrell said. "We showed up to play. If we've got an asterisk next to the win, so be it. We got the W."
Without Turner, it didn't take Burbank long to take control of the game. Mitchell Love and William Roots hit three pointers just before half to break a 27-27 tie, then the Titans scored the first eight points of the third quarter to go up 41-27.
"I think that was the difference right there," Ferrell said. "That gave us the cushion we needed."
Give Sacramento credit, though.
The Dragons kept battling, even with 6-foot-11 senior Robert Garrett forced to miss some valuable minutes because of foul trouble. He picked up his third foul with 3:44 to play in the second quarter and a fourth with 6:10 to go in the third when the Titans went up 14 points.
But the closest the Dragons got in the second half was the final margin of four points.
Burbank made only 4-of-10 free throws in being outscored 13-4 in the final 90 seconds.
"We were up 12 and then they climbed back in," Ferrell said. "That's a sign of a champion. We had to earn it."
Sophomore David Straugther, who averaged 2.6 points and four rebounds entering the game, had 22 points and 11 rebounds while Rob Long added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Titans.
Erik Kinney topped Sacramento with 19 points. Darius Graham added 17, De'von Boyd 16 and Aaron Cameron 13.