March 10, 2011
Sac boys, girls win in raucous Hotell to advance to NorCal semis

It's what the Sacramento High boys and girls basketball teams look forward to all year - the opportunity to play in the postseason in their venerable Dave Hotell Pavilion.

It's a huge, concrete monstrosity, unlike most of the cozy area gyms. Backdrops are far from the basket. The ceilings are high. The lighting dim.

Announcer Sean Boyd's thunderous voice adds to the raucous atmosphere as the pulsating sounds of cheers reverberate off the walls.

So with a huge crowd tonight for a rare doubleheader, the old barn was rocking. The Dragons, top-seeded in the boys and No. 2 in the girls, opened their CIF Northern California Regional Division III playoff run with a sweep.

The Sacramento girls (27-5) put together a late run and used a balanced offensive attack to defeat tenacious Miramonte (23-7) of Orinda 51-43 in the opener. Then the Sacramento boys (26-6), behind 6-foot-11 Robert Garrett's 20 points and dominating defensive presence, defeated an equally determined Foothill (22-7) of Palo Cedro 66-62 in the nightcap.

Into the house of horrors will come two more out-of-area teams for Saturday's semifinals. The girls will play Campolindo of Moraga, a 63-57 winner over Cathedral of San Franciso. The boys will face El Cerrito, which beat Burlingame 46-43.

"We have a unique, old gym," said Sacramento High athletic director Justin Gatling. "So it can be intimidating for visiting teams, especially when we fill the place."

It's almost an impossible place for visitors to win. By beating Miramonte, the girls extended their home-court winning streak to 65 games over five years. The boys are 72-6 during the same period.

"It's why we play all those tough games in the preseason," said Sac High boys coach Derek Swafford. "It prepares us for the playoffs. Getting to do it at home in front of our fans is a huge advantage and a treat for our kids."

Said Sacramento girls coach Michele Massari: "What an amazing crowd tonight. It really helped us."

Senior guard Fantasia Hilliard relishes the postseason atmosphere.

"I love big crowds," said the 5-3 Hilliard, who played every minute and scored 11 points. "During the regular season we don't play as tough of teams, and there may be five people in the stands. This fires us up."

It helps that both talented teams play entertaining, unselfish basketball. Against Miramonte, three Dragons were in double figures, led by Jasmine Ware with 12 points.

"That's what's great about our team," Hilliard said. "Someone is always going to be on so we don't have to be stars."

While Garrett continues to be a force since star Josiah Turner left the team in midseason, he didn't do it alone against a scrappy Foothill bunch motivated by an active student rooting section of its own.

De'von Boyd had 15 points, Darius Graham 13 and Erik Kinney came up with a huge block at the basket with 3.5 seconds left that prevented Foothill from possibly tying the score.

Bill Paterson



About the Prep blog

Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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