STOCKTON — In a dogged display of basketball by both schools, Lincoln survived rally after rally by the Blue Devil boys in its 80-78 Sac-Joaquin Section playoff victory on Wednesday night.
The first-round loss ends 11th-seeded Davis High’s season at 16-11 while the Trojans (22-6 and No. 6 in the Division I tournament) move on to meet Bella Vista on Friday.
“I don’t question the character of these guys because they fought to the end,” longtime DHS coach Dan Gonzalez said afterward. “It’s just tough because I know they put a lot into it. We were hoping to make a dent in this.
“This is by far the closest we’ve come (to advancing in Gonzalez’s 15 years) and I’m really proud of them,” an emotional Gonzalez added. “At this point, I can’t say I could have asked for anything more.”
In a game played before more than 400 fans, the pace was frenetic from the start.
Lincoln — the San Joaquin Athletic Association co-champs — jumped out to an 11-5 lead before the Devils launched their first rally.
Senior guard Hayden Russell made a driving layup off of a Kevin Sorensen assist. Russell immediately returned the favor, hitting Sorensen with a crisp assist after he had stolen a Trojan pass.
When just-called-up freshman Ryan Kreidler nailed a jumper off an inbounds play, Davis had come back to tie at 11-11.
Trailing 16-15 after a quarter, Lincoln went on an 11-5 second-period run — thanks to four blocked shots by Julio Muao and some slick inside passing by Ryan Fernandez.
But DHS’ Brett Bloomfield hit a trey, Russell went inside for a contested bucket and Grant Dickerson added a lay-in and a block off of which Sorensen was able to score.
With 54 seconds remaining until intermission, Brandon Strong nailed a trey (thanks to Dickerson’s dish) and the two squads took their break knotted at 35.
Things went back and forth throughout the third period. With the Blue Devils trailing by five, Daniel Bonetti’s rebound and bucket was followed by Bloomfield’s 3-pointer and again the contest was tied, 49-49. On the night, the junior guard scored 11 and had an assist, a steal and a rebound. Bonetti had two boards, a steal, an assist and scored four points.
In the competitive third period, Sorensen and Muao continued their ding-dong battle inside, each scoring six points in the quarter. Both grabbed four boards and neither gave quarter as fans sensed this one would come down to the wire.
The final book in Sorensen’s brilliant prep career read: 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. For the 6-foot-4 senior Muao, the night featured eight blocks to go with 21 points and 14 boards.
As the playoff fervor rose, Joseph Harrison and Russell traded late baskets and the fourth quarter started with the host team up, 57-56.
Early in the final stanza, Michael Anderson began to feel it for Lincoln. Scoreless in the initial 27 minutes, the junior guard canned a 3-pointer, then hit another two minutes later and suddenly the Trojans led 67-60.
But back came the Delta Valley Conference’s third-place team …
Davis hit four free throws, then Bonetti’s inbounds steal was passed to Bloomfield for two more.
Now down only 67-65, the Devils were back in business. Until Harrison, Anderson and Muao got busy again.
Combining for 15 of Lincoln’s 23 points in the period, the trio’s strong play resulted in a 7-0 Trojan run. The 74-65 lead was LHS’ biggest of the night, but still the locals weren’t finished.
Dickerson scored off a Strong pass. Kilkenny sank two free throws and, after an Anderson bucket, Strong was fouled from beyond the arc — hitting all three of his charity tosses.
When Russell hit two more free throws, Lincoln’s lead had shrunk to 78-76 with 23 seconds left.
Then the end came for the Blue Devils …
Davis had to foul and Wesley Dulan made both shots for a four-point lead with 20 seconds left.
Russell worked to be fouled as the clock evaporated and with 0.8 seconds made a pair of free throws, but time had run out on the Devils’ season.
“We got farther than we did any of my years,” Sorensen told The Enterprise. “Pretty obvious we lost by two, but we gave it our all. I’m proud of the guys. They all hustled. They didn’t give up. We were down by (nine) with a couple minutes left — so we didn’t give up.”
Notes: Dickerson finished with 14 points, two blocks and six rebounds, while Russell scored 16 with four boards, a couple of assists and three steals. … Drew Gnos, just up from junior varsity, was quick off the bench and contributed. The guard had three steals, two assists and a pair of rebounds. … No. 7 Franklin got by No. 10 Turlock, 67-65, and now meets No. 2 Pleasant Grove. No. 1 Sheldon hammered No. 16 Bear Creek, 94-40. … Fond memories for Davis: It ends the season as California’s top-scoring squad at 87 points per game, and the Blue Devils set single-game scoring records three times (including 134 against Burton in December).
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.