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March 2, 2013The Sac-Joaquin Section handed out four section titles on Friday in Division V and Division III. Brookside Christian girls rolled in the opening game while Modesto Christian closed out the night with the program's 15th section title.
Modesto Christian looks ready for a spot in the Open Division after a 66-54 win over Sierra. The Crusaders struggled early in the rebounding game against an active Sierra squad, but came back to shoot better than 50 percent, turn the ball over just 11 times and held Sierra to less than 40 percent shooting in the win. Modesto Christian is a long shot to win the Open Division if selected, but they have resided in the NCP Top 5 all year and have faced a difficult schedule.
Thomas Wallace, one of two Pacific signees on the roster, controlled the game especially in the second half. He had 20 points and five rebounds on 8-for-11 shooting. With excellent size at 6-foot-4, Wallace was able to challenge the Sierra defense on his drives and was a difficult matchup in transition. He also hit the offensive glass well as was able to use his size advantage to work a little from the block. Defensively, he pestered ball handlers all night showing good energy on that end of the floor.
Speaking of defense, it is going to be a long night if Zerrion Payton is guarding you. The 6-foot-0 senior guard was tasked with defending Sierra standout Guillermo Nunez and did a terrific job. He is relentless chasing his man, is able to play tight defense without getting beat off the dribble and contesting shots. He also had a team high six assists for a solid under the radar senior.
The 6-foot-1 Nunez did finish with 19 points on 50 percent shooting, but most of his production came while Payton was out. Still, Nunez does a good job moving without the ball and coming off screens, has deep range and a good floater game on the baseline. On a balanced team, he is the standout and has been key in the Timberwolves' back-to-back section final runs.
While seniors took most of the headlines, Modesto Christian sophomore Anthony Townes wreaked havoc inside with eight blocks. He also had 10 points and 14 rebounds. He is a good athlete who was able to finish in transition and moves well for a potential four man. His own offense needs work, but the activity level and defensive awareness showed on Friday are very good sign.
Capital Christian hangs on
It wasn't easy and not very pretty in the second half, but Capital Christian held off Brookside Christian 40-39 for its second straight SJS Division V title. Tyler Jennings drew a foul with 0.7 seconds left and made the first free throw to seal the win. 3-star junior DJ Wilson didn't play with a back injury and his status the rest of the way is in question.
The Cougars, the top ranked team in Division V all season, settled into a zone defense much of the night trying to corral the fast pace of Brookside Christian. The plan worked in holding Brookside to 33 percent shooting on the night and just 7-for-27 in the first half. However, the offense struggled to get anything going outside of quick run outs off long rebounds and turnovers. In the second half, the Cougars went 4-18 with 15 turnovers to muster just 13 points. Five of those points came in the first three minutes of the third quarter. They are still the favorites in Division V, but a lack of offense and an injury to Wilson could signal an early exit.
Sophomore Trey Belton was active with nine points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. He was constantly around the ball, a crafty shot maker at times and a springy athlete. He has a very good frame to build on, but needs to refine his skill set. Sophomore guard Justice Shelton-Mosley went 4-for-7 with eight points and four assists. He is a steady guard to watch out of the 2015 class.
Despite two sophomores starting, it is the junior class which has three players in the NCP Top 40. Jennings battled foul trouble, but showed a good feel for his pull-up game and had the ball in his hands down the stretch. The 3-star point guard went 1-for-5 for three points. Nifae Lealao, one of the top football recruits in country, has good feet inside and crashed the basket well from the baseline. He had seven points and six rebounds. Unranked Uchenna Iroebgu plays with a nice burst and can create some space with his dribble. He went 4-for-12 to finish with nine points, four rebounds and three steals.
Brookside Christian brought 6-foot-6 junior Jashandeep Kahlon off the bench for 19 minutes of action on Friday. He had six points and 11 rebounds, including four offensive. A slow start in the first half eventually doomed the Knights, which made numerous runs at Capital Christian in the fourth quarter.
Brookside Christian bound for Open?
As expected, Brookside Christian rolled past Capital Christian 72-28 for its second straight SJS Division V title. The Knights jumped out to a 28-4 lead after the first quarter in forcing 15 turnovers. Brookside is a guard driven team and was able to fluster Capital Christian with aggressive double teams. Offensively, it was able to get to the basket off the dribble and set up open three point shooters off kick out passes. The Knights finished 8-for-30 from three point range.
Junior guard Tiara Tucker led the way with 24 points (300 career playoff points), five rebounds and nine steals on 9-for-17 shooting. She is a fast guard who is good at turning defense into quick offense. She has good handles and didn't force many shots on Friday, but still needs to prove she can be a consistent outside shooter. Defensively, she has quick hands and logs plenty of steals as an off-ball defender.
Sophomore forward Raky'ra Gabriel had five points and eight rebounds with two steals. She is gaining more confidence operating on the perimeter on offense, but is at her best inside. She was active near the front of the press and had a couple of aggressive offensive rebounds. She has a high ceiling, but needs to add some strength and toughness to not get moved off of her spots. Fellow sophomore guard Breanna Grisby tied for a team high with eight rebounds. She is a good athlete who is a solid defender and someone who should be in the mix for the initial 2015 class rankings.
With all of these components, is Brookside Christian set for the Open Division? There is evidence for it being the defending Division V state champions and rolling through Sac-Joaquin competition in this division. The Knights have also scheduled up with games against Sacramento, St. Ignatius, Bishop O'Dowd and St. Mary's-Berkeley. However, Brookside Christian isn't at the same level as the other teams expected to be in the Open Division and would likely be a first round opponent of O'Dowd. If they stay in Division V, the Knights should go deep in March and potentially face a more equal match in Eastside Prep. And that is the best case scenario for all involved.
Christian Brothers wins first title since 2008
Christian Brothers, the top seed in Division III, won a physical and fast paced game against Vanden 61-56. Junior Alicia Gonzalez was able to work off her dribble to score a game high 18 points to go with eight rebounds. She is a solid athlete who is better going to the rim. Only four of the Eagles' 12 players are seniors in a program on the rise under head coach Ron Gully. This is their first section title since winning Division IV against Modesto Christian in 2008.
Vanden was led by 5-foot-11 junior small forward Mariah Williams and her 17 points. She went 8-for-14 in getting to the basket off a spin move in the paint and uses her strength to create good looks. She also had nine rebounds in spending most of her night below the free throw line. Junior forward Aleseana Whitney was active inside with seven rebounds and three blocks, but struggled offensively. There is promise for the 2-star prospect, but the offense is behind the defense.
Both programs will move onto NorCals in what could be a wide open Division III field if Bishop O'Dowd and Miramonte are moved up to the Open Division.