March 12, 2013
Thames scores 31 as Pleasant Grove shocks De La Salle

If you are going to get your basketball program's signature win, it might as well come against De La Salle of Concord, one of the most venerated boys basketball programs in Northern California.

That's what No. 2-seeded Pleasant Grove did Tuesday night on its home court in thumping the No. 6 Spartans 68-51 in the CIF Northern California Regional Division I semifinals.

"That was a big win for our program," said Pleasant Grove senior point guard Malik Thames, who had 31 points and showed amazing poise and court leadership. "De La Salle is a great program. They have a great tradition and great fans. We just wanted to show everybody that we deserved the No. 2 seed."

The victory sets up a magnetic D-I championship final Saturday at Sleep Train Arena between the Eagles and top-seeded Deer Valley of Antioch, a 54-52 winner over Bellarmine of San Jose.

"It's going to be a great game," Thames added. "I know Kendall Smith (UNLV signee) real well, and they have a McDonald's All-American in Marcus Lee (Kentucky). It's going to be a high-energy game."

Pleasant Grove (26-6) showed plenty of energy and resourcefulness in rolling a shellshocked De La Salle squad (26-5), which for the second year in a row was eliminated in the semifinals by a Delta River League team. Last year, Jesuit beat the Spartans 44-41 in Concord.

Pleasant Grove - a quarterfinal loser at De La Salle last season - was making its first NorCal semifinal appearance ever against a school that has been to the NorCal Regional championship game 11 times, winning five titles.

But it was cool, calm and collected Pleasant Grove that looked like the poised, veteran team.

Among the highlights:

• The Eagles shot 52 percent from the field, and Thames was 10 for 13, including three three-pointers. He also was 8 for 9 from the foul line. Cole Nordquist added 14 points, and Matthew Hayes had 13.

• The defensively renowned Spartans had been holding opponents to an average of 37 points. Pleasant Grove led 37-17 at halftime.

• De La Salle's leading scorer, 6-5 Arizona-bound senior guard Elliott Pitts, didn't take his first shot - a free throw - more than two minutes into the second quarter. Pleasant Grove led 24-12 at that point, though Pitts finished with 17 points.

• Hayes capped the first and second quarters with long-distance buzzer-beating three-pointers, Thames did the same at the end of the third quarter, and defensive whiz James Watson (one of the prime hounders of Pitts) put an exclamation point on the victory with a monster block with 5.8 seconds left.

"We wanted to speed the game up, and our shots were falling," said Thames, who had 32 points in a game against Granite Bay during the regular season. "We played well today. Hopefully we can continue to do that and get to State."



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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