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Devils look to make noise as league play starts

By From page B1 | January 15, 2014

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DHS senior Brandon Strong makes an acrobatic move in an early-season matchup. The Blue Devils open conference play this week. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise file photo

The 2013-14 edition of the Davis High basketball boys basketball team won’t be the tallest squad in the Delta Valley Conference.

With just four frontcourt players listed on their roster, none taller than the 6-5 Matt Michael, the Blue Devils will often face challenges inside. No matter, veteran DHS head coach Dan Gonzalez has a solution.

“This is why we play an up-tempo game,” said Gonzalez, whose team opens DVC play on Friday (7 p.m.) at Elk Grove. “We don’t have the size that other teams have inside. We want to take advantage of what we do have, which is a lot of guards.”

The 10-5 Devils utilize their guards by running what is called The System, a high-tempo style of play where the goal of the game is to suffocate the opponent defensively with a constant full-court press — while taking more than 80 shots per game including 30 3-pointers.

The System, which Davis is now running for the third straight season, has paid dividends for an offense that is averaging 81.5 points per game, tops in the state.

But for the locals, the players behind The System are the real reason for its success.

“It’s a combination of both (the system and the players),” Gonzalez said. “The system makes it so that points come more often, but you do have to have the players who can shoot the three and fight for those offensive rebounds.”

As the league schedule begins, the Blue Devils will continue to rely on a multitude of shooters, like seniors Brandon Strong (15.5 points per game), Ben Crook (9.4 ppg) and Brett Bloomfield (9.2 ppg) along with sophomore Glen Welch (8.7 ppg).

Senior Matt Michael (10.9 ppg) will be called upon for the rebounding and dirty work, but there are many others who will play a key role in providing depth. That group includes senior Austin Lampley and sophomores Ryan Kreidler and Ben Prussel.

Though DHS starts its most important part of the season this week, it already has some good play under its belt.

The Devils placed second in the Bella Vista Bronco Roundup before taking the title at the Vacaville Bulldog Tournament behind an MVP performance from Strong. In both tourney’s late-game buzzer-beaters by Bloomfield helped Davis advance.

“That was the second tournament in a row where we made it to the championship game,” Gonzalez said of the event in Vacaville. “It made believers out of all the players in the program. We’re off to a good start and what we’re doing right now is right for us as far as playing with this system.”

After making the playoffs last year for the third time in Gonzalez’s 16 years at DHS, the Devils suffered a heartbreaking 80-78 loss to Lincoln High in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Gonzalez said this season’s goal is to build off last year’s postseason appearance:

“We don’t want to think past league play. (But) we don’t want to just play one game in the playoffs. The plan is to hopefully go beyond one game.”

Here’s a look around the rest of the DVC …

Grant (10-3) — Gone is star De’Sean Parsons who shredded the Devil defense for 35 points in a game last year at the DHS gym.

Replacing Parsons this season is 6-foot-8 senior forward Cameron Oliver, who has received recruitment offers from Oregon and San Jose State according to Yahoo’s Rivals.com website.

Guards James Churchill and Donovan Brown provide auxiliary scoring threats for Grant.

Last year: The Pacers lost a tight game, 80-76, in Davis before rebounding to beat the Blue Devils, 90-80, in Sacramento. Grant finished 8-2 in league play to win the DVC title.

Monterey Trail (13-4) — Despite having a small roster featuring just six players whose height starts with a “6,” none of whom are taller than 6-2, the Mustangs have been surprising this year with the most wins of any of the DVC teams heading into conference play.

Though standing just 5-8, senior point guard Leondre Lintz is the team’s leader, averaging 15.9 ppg as well as 3.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

As a team, Monterey Trail shoots 47 percent and averages a solid 59.5 points an outing.

Last year: Beaten by the Devils twice in close games, 96-91 in Elk Grove and 67-65 at DHS. Finished 2012-13 in last place at 0-10 in the conference.

Franklin (9-6) — The relatively inexperienced Wildcats feature eight new players on their roster, but return star forward Benson Osayande, a 6-6 senior who is one of the league’s best inside players.

Team captain John Moscoso provides outside shooting for a squad that Gonzalez describes as having “awesome size.”

Last year: Franklin swept Davis in DVC play, but the Devils took care of the Wildcats, 87-79, at the Bronco Invitational. The Wildcats posted a 7-3 record in DVC play to take second place.

Laguna Creek (9-7) — Senior guard Richard Reed leads Laguna Creek in scoring with 14.3 ppg, while also showing his all-around ability by providing 4.1 assists and 3.3 boards each night.

Six-foot-five forward Jericho Avery is the Cardinals top post threat, averaging 11.8 ppg to go along with 7.6 rpg.

Last year: The Cards split the season series with the Blue Devils, taking their home game, 86-85, before losing, 86-80, at DHS. At 6-4, LC finished in a tie with the Devils for third place in the DVC.

Elk Grove (8-9) – Elk Grove is a team to watch, with many young, exciting players, but is perhaps a year away.

The Thundering Herd is led by sophomores Gabriel Serna and Tanner “Tank” Murphy, the team’s top scorers.

Junior Abubaker Okolo is the only other player to average in double figures for EGHS.

Last year: The Herd was easily swept by Davis, 62-56 at home and 96-57 away. Elk Grove went 3-7 in league play to finish fifth.

— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam

Evan Ream

Evan Ream graduated with a B.A. in journalism from Southern Oregon in Ashland, Ore. He loves soccer more than any person rationally should. "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that." - Bill Shankly

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