By Bill Paterson
Friday's boys basketball match-up between No. 1 Capital Christian and No. 3 Sacramento in the semifinals of the St. Hope Elite Classic at Sac High produced all the excitement and highlight-reel plays expected of a budding rivalry with loads of talented players.
D.J. Wilson scored 20 points, UC Iroegbu 15 and Nifae Lealao 14 and Tyler Jennings, Justice Mosely and Marcelas Perry provided heady floor play as Capital Christian turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 79-52 rout.
Sophomore post Solomon Young led Sac High with 18 points and 14 rebounds but no other Dragon scored in double figures.
Capital Christian (10-0) will play state-ranked No. 5 Centennial (7-1) of Corona in Saturday's 7:45 p.m. championship, the last of six games to be played at Sac High on the last day of the five-day, 12-team tournament. Capital Christian is ranked No. 13 in California by Cal-Hi Sports.
Centennial defeated West Ranch of Valencia 91-66 in Friday's other semifinal.
Sacramento gave Capital Christian a battle in the first half, leading by as many as eight points, 29-21, late in the second quarter as the Cougars had trouble containing the 6-foot-6 Young, one of the nation's top sophomores. He had 10 first-half points, including two impressive 3-pointers.
But Capital Christian's 6-9 Wilson, the 6-6 Lealao and others helped bottle up Young with double and triple teams in the second half, daring the other Dragons to beat them.
Sacramento shot a collective 27 percent from the field.
Wilson had another strong performance in scoring inside and outside, grabbing boards and blocking or altering shots. The lightning-quick Iroegbu, Mosley (10 points) and Perry (nine points) broke down Sac's defense in often finishing dribble drives with layups.
Capital Christian broke away from the Dragons with a 12-0 run late in the third quarter. Wilson punctuated it with a 3-point bank shot at the buzzer for a 54-42 lead.
The game between Capital Christian, the small private school, and Sacramento, the public charter school, was more than a match-up of area basketball powers.
The players know each other well. Many have played together as teammates on the Yellow Jackets, a Sacramento-based AAU program.
Capital Christian coach Devon Jones has coached several of Sac High's players, including Young and sophomore Christian Terrell.
Terrell's mother, Erika, is right in the middle of it all.
She's the director of operations for the Yellow Jackets and is helping Sac High coach Derek Swafford put on the St. Hope tournament.
In all there were 14 Yellow Jackets playing on Friday, eight for Capital Christian and six for Sacramento.
"It's a win-win for me because I see our boys on both sides of the bench," Erika Terrell said. "Both teams are well coached. And I'm proud either way the outcome goes."
The two teams have played each other the past two years in the season-opening Foundation Game exhibition.
But with the Cougars' rise to prominence and Swafford's friendship with former Capital Christian coach Phil Oates, he had to have Capital Christian in the tournament.
Swafford's Dragons, which feature nine sophomores and a freshman on its 13-player roster, are where senior-dominated Capital Christian was two years ago when the Cougars won their first of two Sac-Joaquin Section Division V titles when Wilson, Lealao, Jennings, Perry and Iroegbu were underclassmen.
"Devon has taken to me and I've taken to him," Swafford said. "He understands what competition is without it being the only thing. We want that rivalry and really, really enjoy it."
But little did Jones or Swafford realize that they would meet three times in less than three weeks this season.
After beating the Dragons 64-52 in the Dec. 2 Foundation Game, the two wound up meeting in Saturday's Gridley Invitational championship game. The Cougars won 78-75.
"After the game at Gridley you would have never known they had just got done competing," Erika Terrell said. "They go to war on the court. But that closeness that they have, as soon as the game's over and the score is final, they're all smiles and friends again."
Foothill-Palo Cedro 80, Pleasant Grove 76 - Despite 38 points, including eight 3-pointers, by junior point guard Johann Tate, the Eagles (3-4) fell to the Cougars (7-2).
"Johann carried us offensively tonight as he has carried us all season," said Pleasant Grove coach John DePonte. Tate had 28 points the night before in Pleasant Grove's 88-66 loss to Centennial.
Kennedy 70, Eisenhower-Rialto 65 - Matt Nakatomi scored 30 points and Colin Uda added 14 as the Cougars (6-3) defeated the Eagles (3-4) to advance to the Silver Division final against Foothill.
St. Hope Elite Classic
Noon - Hiram Johnson vs. Christian Brothers
1:30 p.m. - Pleasant Grove vs. Eisenhower-Rialto
3 p.m. - Foothill-Sacramento vs. Ponderosa
4:30 p.m. - Kennedy vs. Foothill-Palo Cedro
6 p.m. - West Ranch-Valenca vs. Sacramento
7:45 p.m. - Centennial-Cornoa vs. Capital Christian
CAPITAL CHRISTIAN 79, SACRAMENTO 52
Capital Christian 14 19 21 25 - 79
Sacramento 16 18 8 10 - 52
CC - Iroegbu 15, Wilson 20, Hope 2, Perry 9, Mosely 10, Jennings 4, Ware 3, Aibuedefe 2, Lealao 14.
S - Matthews 7, Finch 6, Gonzales 2, Henderson 6, Young 18, Terrell 7, Durr 4, Williams 4.
FOOTHILL-PALO CEDRO 80, PLEASANT GROVE 76
Pleasant Grove 14 16 23 23 - 76
Foothill 14 20 25 21 - 80
PG - Tate 38, Lindsey 11, Jackson 1, Chriss 18, Mayberry 4, Arrivas 2, Fitzgerald 2.
F - Cloney 14, Smith 13 Schabarum 18, Fry 21, Trancale 4, Terras 2, Hamilton 8.
KENNEDY 70, EISENHOWER-RIALTO 65
Eisenhower 15 14 16 20 - 65
Kennedy 11 20 23 16 - 70
E - Shelton 4, Arrington 4, Mark. Harris 3, Kearney 6, Clarendon 17, Posey 14, Mark. Harris 15, Thompson 2.
K - Taira 8, Nakatomi 30, Bales 6, Hutt 2, Uda 14, Healow 1, Coner 1, Alexander 3, Okamoto 5.
FOOTHILL-SACRAMENTO 59, HIRAM JOHNSON 54
PONDEROSA 59, CHRISTIAN BROTHERS 48
CENTENNIAL-CORONA 91, WEST RANCH-VALENCIA 66