By Joe Davidson
A closer look at the Sac-Joaquin Section boys playoff rounds as we inch closer to title time.
Semifinals: Power Balance Pavilion
No. 2 Franklin vs. No. 3 Jesuit, 5:30 p.m.
No. 1 Sheldon vs. No. 4 Granite Bay, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: If there are going to be upsets in this field, it has to happen here and now, when smallish prep gyms give way to the spacious confines of Arco Arena - er, Power Balance Pavilion. Teams generally struggle with free throws and long-range shooting with the depth perception here on the first night, needing a half to adjust, if at all. Jesuit offers size and fundamental fury with leading scorer Parker Uu and driven coach Greg Harcos, a Jesuit alum, to counter Franklin's fantastic speed, unselfish play and composure under coach Jesse Fomaker, in yet another Arco visit (Hayward High as a coach and three times with Franklin). Jesuit just took out a fast and explosive Burbank bunch 81-65 on Friday, and it has lost twice to Sheldon by a total of six points. Franklin is led by steady senior leaders Anthony King and Chuks Iroegbu and impressive junior Theo Johnson.
Granite Bay is battle tested from two tough Sierra Foothill League wars with rival Woodcreek, top seeded in D-II, and the Grizzlies are gritty as they are fundamental with coach Jason Sitterud and top talents Robert Duncan and Jonathon Davis. And there's Sheldon, unbeaten in Section play and the defending champs playing the role with leading talents Ramon Eaton and Darius Nelson for coach Joey Rollings. The unsung performer - yet not at all underappreciated - for Sheldon has been D'Erryl Williams, who had 22 in a 93-74 win over Rodriguez on Friday.
Semifinals: Power Balance Pavilion
No. 7 St. Mary's vs. No. 3 Cordova, 4 p.m.
No. 1 Woodcreek vs. No. 4 Antelope, 9 p.m.
Outlook:Classy coach Bob Jones got his Arco return, advancing Cordova to the NBA arena for the first time since 1994. His Lancers are led by Pogos Trunyan, with visions of the program winning a title for the first time since 1984, when Hub Morphew led Big Red to the D-I title. Antelope has had an impressive rise in athletic power in a short time, testament to principal John Becker, the athletes and the staff that includes coach Rob Richards. John Winters and Jarvis Watkins had 31 points combined for Antelope to knock out a fine Bella Vista team in a semifinal. And there's Woodcreek, the defending champion led by guard John Peska and coach Paul Hayes, who won section and NorCal titles at Arco in 2003 and craves more.
Semifinals: Cosumnes River College
No. 1 Sacramento vs. No. 4 Weston Ranch, 7:30 p.m.
No. 2 Center vs. No. 6 Foothill, 9 p.m.
Outlook: No surprise that Foothill and veteran coach Drew Hibbs upended a tough and talented El Dorado team in Placerville in a semifinal, given Hibbs' pedigree and his team's upside now. The Mustangs now draw Center, a team that owns two close wins on them in Pioneer Valley League play. The third time isn't always the charm as coaches dread that third meeting after winning the first two, in this case Center's Ray Gagnon. Still, Center fears no one with leading scorer Chad Haysbert, who had 26 points to beat Yuba City 79-65 in a quarterfinal. Sacramento has played well without Josiah Turner, having taken his talents to Quality Education Academy (really can't make up a better school name than that one, by the way). Robert Garrett, a 6-foot-11 center, and steady guard Aaron Cameron led the way for coach Derek Swafford in a 63-52 quarterfinal win over Sierra-Manteca. A finals appearance would be the sixth in a row for Sacramento.
Semifinals: Wednesday, Tokay High School
Colfax/Ripon vs. Capital Christian/Summerville, 5:30 p.m.
No. 4 Amador vs. No. 1 Modesto Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: This bracket is incomplete due to snow. Colfax plays at Ripon on Monday night, 6 p.m. and Capital plays at Summerville at 7 on Monday. This delay allows the resting, waiting teams to scout all the more. The clear favorite, perhaps more than ever, remains Modesto Christian, seeking the prorgram's 15th title.
Semifinals: Tuesday, Galt High School
No. 1 Ripon Christian vs. No. 4 Vacaville Christian
No. 2 Bradshaw Christian vs. No. 3 Valley Christian
Outlook: Still looks like a collision course for the top seeds, with Bradshaw eager to win the title it hoisted two seasons ago. Bradshaw got a much-needed test in taking out Sacramento Waldorf 59-56 behind Scott Eklund (26 points) and Jake Adkins (17).