The Woodcreek boys basketball players know they are about to play one of the best team's in California when they go against Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in today's 4 p.m. CIF Northern California Regional Division II boys basketball championship at Power Balance Arena.
They also are aware that they are sizeable underdogs against the top-seeded Monarchs, despite the relative home-court advantage and an expected huge turnout of the school's famed "Black Mob" rooting section.
The Timberwolves (29-5) will be playing against a West Catholic Athletic League power that went 30-2 (one of their losses, however, was to Jesuit, a team Woodcreek beat) and includes one of the nation's top sophomores in 6-foot-7 Aaron Gordon.
But that's just it. The Timberwolves' senior leader trio of Jamie Geyer, John Peska and Devin Murphy hate any thought of being overshadowed by a sophomore.
"He's a good player, but he's still really young," said Geyer, a Woodcreek co-captain along with Murphy. "Besides, we don't want to lose to a sophomore."
Coach Paul Hayes knows Gordon is no ordinary underclassman, having been named the MVP of arguably Northern California's top boys basketball league.
"He's tremendous, very talented," Hayes said. "He's smooth. There's not a lot of wasted energy."
Hayes would feel more confidence about today's matchup if he had senior center Sam Anderson, a strong, experienced defender.
But the 6-7 Anderson was lost for season with a knee injury just before the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals.
"Sam did so much for us, things that didn't get into the scorebook," Hayes said. "He was great at keeping the other team's big man off the boards."
Instead 6-5 juniors Luke Summers and Logan Fearman will be put to the test. Neither played much before Anderson's injury.
Hayes, though, said he isn't surprised that this group is playing for another NorCal title today.
That's despite the graduation of last year's entire starting lineup - including 7-footer Mike Kurtz (now at UC Davis) - from a team that won the D-II section title and lost on a buzzer beater to St. Francis of Mountain View in the NorCal title game under then coach Burnel Pinkerton.
"It's a great thing and a tough thing to even get to," said Hayes, whose 2003 Timberwolves won the D-II Northern California championship. "There were 12 very good teams at the start.
"But I'm not surprised by this team's success. I had them as sophomores (as the JV coach). They were a real strong supporting cast last year on a team with an abundance of talent. They're a resilient group."