By Joe Davidson
The Metro Conference in boys basketball has produced many a mighty team over the decades: The Burbank Titans of the 1980s under scowling coach John Copeland. The Kennedy Cougars of the same decade and into the '90s with Spider Thomas, he of the bifocals and towel draped over his shoulder. Sacramento High last decade and now under booming coach Derek Swafford, he of the five Sac-Joaquin Section Division III banners and 300 career wins.
The Metro still features all three in the playoff scramble, with Sacramento the No. 2 seed expected to bolt to the finals, this time in D-II.
Burbank and Kennedy, meanwhile, delivered gritty opening-round D-I efforts and now draw the large-school field's top seeds in No. 1 Sheldon and No. 2 Jesuit, respectively.
If the Metro wins here, or at least splits, the D-I field will be drop-kicked off its axis.
"Playing at Sheldon or Jesuit, I don't wish that on anyone because they're great teams and have (great home atmosphere)," Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell said, adding that the challenge is so inviting, his players "can't wait."
"The kids are really excited," Ferrell said. "It's a great opportunity."
Burbank, seeded ninth, blitzed Golden Valley of Merced in the second quarter of its playoff opener en route to a 57-33 rout. The Titans switched from a zone defense to man and filled the passing lanes. Jay Stone had 15 points, William Roots and Malik Pope 10 each and Mitchell Love nine.
No. 7-seeded Kennedy held off Chavez of Stockton 65-47 with Derrick West and D.J. Duronslet each going for 16 and Ryan Edwards powering inside for 10. Sheldon, seeking a third consecutive section title, belted Pitman 78-43 with Kyi Thomas going for 25 and Ryan Manning 18. Jesuit, hunting for its ninth title, downed Nevada Union 68-44 behind Bryce Pressley's 19.
* Concerned over the weekend if it would even make the D-I playoffs, Oak Ridge slipped in as a 13 seed and bounced No. 4 West in Tracy 60-54. Bryce Scott scored 25 with eight rebounds and Scott Sanchez went for 14 and seven. Scott is the terrific senior shooting son of Trojans coach Steve Scott.
* No. 12 Vista del Lago upset No. 5 Weston Ranch 72-71 behind Patrick Lowman's 38 points. Weston Ranch took a one-point lead late with a 22-0 run before Jake Duenkel and Ryan Rodriguez iced it with free throws. Lowman is a 3.2 student and also a student of the game.
* Leroy Abraham had 39 points and Marquice Clark 24 in No. 9 Natomas' 81-77 win at No. 8 El Dorado in D-III.
* Matt Hayes had 32 points - six three-pointers and 10 rebounds in an overall display of dominance to power No. 11 Yuba City past No. 6 Del Campo in D-II. Hayes is a terrific talent who has been a bit under the radar. Not now. He's moving the radar.
* Bear River joins Oak Ridge as the lowest-seeded boys team to advance. The Bruins beat No. 4 Sonora 50-47 on the road in D-IV and now gas up the busses again for a trip tonight at No. 5 Calaveras. Bear River is coached by Duwaine Ganskie, who stuffed his school's trophy case with nine section banners while coaching the girls.
* Elk Grove Unified School District teams Franklin and Pleasant Grove face off in the D-I playoffs for the third consecutive season tonight, with Franklin winning the previous two meetings. Both harbor D-I title hopes, with the winner reaching Power Balance Pavilion next week with a triumph.
Franklin and coach Jesse Formaker has two core leaders on Theo and Darin Johnson. Pleasant Grove coach John DePonte relies on the grit and leadership of Cody Demps, Malik Thames and D.J. Dunn, who drops the hammer on fouls like the linebacker enforcer that he is.
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