Winning on the road is never easy.
But on Wednesday — when the Davis High boys head to Stockton to meet Lincoln in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I basketball playoffs — the Blue Devils can take heart in knowing they’ve played well away from home this winter.
In going 9-7 on foreign soil, DHS three times set single-game scoring records. On 13 occasions, the locals scored 84 or more points in other teams’ gyms.
In bagging the 11th seed, the Devils hope to break out quickly in Stockton, negating their host’s home-court advantage and giving Dan Gonzalez his first postseason victory in a 15-year head coaching career.
“In order to avoid the one-and-done, it’s important that we get going right away,” Gonzalez explain. “In looking back at our previous (two) appearances, we got off to slow starts. Their crowds were really into the game.
“We need to understand that, as the road team, this is the immediate challenge that we must take control of.”
Gonzalez would like nothing better than to run and hide from Lincoln, the San Joaquin Athletic Association co-champs, who also like to move the ball quickly.
While not as prolific as Davis (the Trojans’ season high is 82 points in a Jan. 2 win over Tracy), Lincoln nonetheless has a handful of guys who can put up points.
Swingman Joseph Harrison and guard Nick Schlutze have been the mainstays.
Harrison is a jumping jack who is averaging 14 points a game while often collecting double digits in rebounds. He also likes to stuff the ball, as evidenced by his game-changing jam in a win over Lodi last month.
Schlutze would be a good fit in the Blue Devils’ outside-shooting scheme since he’s a 3-point specialist who looks to distribute the ball first. Another steady Lincoln scorer is Ryan Fernandez.
In games that Trojan coach Gary Greeno has considered key for Lincoln, each time it has been that trio emerging for No. 6 Lincoln (21-6, 8-2) — especially at home, where it is 10-1.
But even if DHS doesn’t come on strong early, The System provides enough fuel to battle back.
“We know that we are very capable of going on good scoring runs at any point in the game,” Gonzalez adds, remembering that in hitting for 87 points a night on average, his Go-Go-Go Guys are California’s top-scoring school.
Devil guard Hayden Russell has led that robust charge, scoring almost 20 points a game. Center Kevin Sorensen’s 16 ppg complements his solid rebounding, and long-range specialist Brandon Strong can scorch the net when his hand gets hot.
Defensively, Grant Dickerson was one of the DVC’s top shot blockers and is called upon to take opponents’ top offensive threats out of games. James Kilkenny, Brett Bloomfield and Tommy Slabaugh have provided repeated sparks off the bench, and the solid recent play of Ben Crook and Matt Michael have added cards to Gonzalez’s already full hand.
Now, the coach has called up three junior varsity members — Drew Gnos, Ryan Kreidler and Nate Curtis — to the Mother Ship, swelling the roster to 19.
“We didn’t make room for those three to have them sit on the bench,” Gonzalez told The Enterprise. “If the situation presents itself where we think they can contribute, they’ll be in there.”
The Blue Devils went 16-10 during the regular season. They finished in a third-place tie in the piranha pool known as the Delta Valley Conference with a 6-4 record.
Four of the league’s six teams earned playoff berths with second-place Franklin (14-13) getting the No. 7 seed and a home game against Turlock on Wednesday. Laguna Creek (No. 10) and DVC winner Grant (No. 4) are in the D-II bracket.
“Having the week off has helped by giving us a chance to spend time on fundamental drills,” Gonzalez says. “With two games a week in league, (it doesn’t) give you much of a chance to do that. (We’re) getting plenty of shooting in and (it gives) our new additions the opportunity to blend in with the rest of the team.”
Gonzalez says his crew doesn’t plan any changes in his game approach for the playoffs, other than “preparing for what to expect from our opponents.”
The coach believes his team — which is as healthy as it’s been all season — is prepared and focused.
Game time is 7 p.m.
Notes: Bear Creek — another SJAA squad — topped Rodriguez, 68-58, in Friday’s out-bracket game. It won the right to meet No. 1 Sheldon this week. Armijo — a team Davis lost to 102-92 on Dec. 7 — beat West, 61-52, in the other play-in game. The Indians get No. 2 Pleasant Grove on Wednesday. … In comparing opponents, it’s interesting to note that Lincoln lost to Elk Grove, 64-59, on Nov. 30. while the Blue Devils beat The Herd twice. Also, the Trojans stopped Laguna Creek, 69-60, before the Cardinals added transfer Andre Lewis and four other new players. DHS split with The Creek.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.