While no one is ready to call Davis “basketball country” just yet, if things go well over the remaining four games of the boys and girls hoops seasons, the moniker might start creeping into area conversations.
With the local girls playing a smothering defense and the boys using a shoot-from-the-hip, high-scoring style, both Blue Devil squads find themselves in first-place ties heading into crunch time.
It marks the first time since the early 1990s that each has been on top of their leagues at the same time this deep into a season.
The guys, averaging almost 90 points a night, are 14-8 overall and sit at 4-2 in the Delta Valley Conference — tied with Laguna Creek, Grant and Franklin in first place.
The Lady Blue Devils (18-4, 5-1) are knotted with Monterey Trail (16-7, 5-1).
Both girls and boys will play two games at home and two games on the road before playoffs begin. But before fans start buying those postseason tickets, the two local squads have some wickedly tough matchups ahead.
“I said at the beginning of the year, this league could be won by a team with three or four DVC losses,” says Dan Gonzalez, head coach of the DHS boys. “I don’t feel any different.”
Gonzalez just hopes that school is Davis.
“We have as good a chance as anybody,” Gonzalez says, adding that the blue-and-white have been working on defense — a defense that was evident in Friday’s 96-57 blowout of visiting Elk Grove.
In fashioning a 14-8 mark, the Devils have 20 times scored 85 or more points in a game. They lead all California schools in per-game average and have broken the century mark five times — along the way moving their single-game points standard up three times until it settled at 134 against Valley Christian two weeks ago.
When Davis skips over to Grant (16-7, 4-2) on Wednesday, the hope is that defense will save the day.
After losing 109-101 on the road to the Pacers last season, Gonzalez and Company saw a marked improvement in an 80-76 win at DHS on Jan. 11.
“We’re working on our defense, making sure their guys don’t get shots in the corner … get easy layups,” Blue Devil junior guard Brandon Strong said after Friday’s win over Elk Grove. “We work on it in every practice.”
Even with a win over Grant, the DVC gauntlet continues: Laguna Creek (13-10, 4-2) comes to town Friday, then it’s home with Monterey Trail (9-14, 0-6) before the regular-season finale at four-time reigning conference champ Franklin (10-11, 4-2).
With junior spark Brett Bloomfield bringing special energy off the bench and standbys like leading scorer Hayden Russell, Kevin Sorensen, Grant Dickerson and Strong upping the ante, this Devil team needs just two wins to give Gonzalez a career-high win total (surpassing the 15-12 season of 2009-10 — the last time DHS went to the playoffs).
Gonzalez, in his 15th at the helm, also sent his 2005-06 squad to the postseason. Neither time did the Blue Devils survive the first postseason round.
So what would a title mean to Davis and its coach?
“It would be huge — for the program,” the popular DHS math teacher says, adding that it would draw attention to the brand of basketball being played by the Devils, as well “as the hard work of these kids. When we’re on, we can play with anybody.”
Meanwhile, the Davis girls entertain Grant (13-9, 4-2) Tuesday at The Cage. DHS has won 11 of its last 12 games — but must watch out for the Pacers.
Coming off of a 59-31 shellacking of previously unblemished Monterey Trail, Grant will be itching to avenge a 65-53 home loss to the Lady Devils earlier this month.
A setback Tuesday could be a huge blow to Davis’ playoff aspirations, given that a Feb. 5 away game with the Mustangs and a Feb. 8 home game against Franklin (11-11, 3-3) remain on the schedule.
However, with one of the top players in the region in senior Ashleigh Vandenbrink — and a host of can-do cast members including co-captain Tori Powell, sophomores Emma Stenz and Caitlin Mazzoleni and freshman starters Rachael Allison and Anna Belenis — the Blue Devils are deep and, by coach Karen Foster’s own admission, positioned to take a run at their second DVC crown in three years.
Notes: Russell is pacing the DHS boys with 20 ppg while Sorensen is hitting 16 ppg. … Vandenbrink has a 15-point average to go with 10 boards a night. Stenz has become a reliable post player who is scoring 11 ppg as her rebounding also has improved in league. The Lady Blue Devils remain one of the deepest — albeit youngest — teams in the region. … Sac-Joaquin Section officials will release the all-important boys and girls power rankings Tuesday.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.