FAIR OAKS — The prep basketball season is only three games old, so to call the Davis High boys the favorite in league play this winter remains a stretch.
It is, however, safe to say that the Blue Devils are now at least in the minds of Delta Valley Conference coaches and players.
After running Franklin ragged in the second half Saturday night, DHS came away with an 87-79 victory — good enough for third place in the Bronco Roundup at Bella Vista.
The win puts Davis at 2-1 (Bella Vista topped the Devils, 101-95 on Friday) while the Wildcats fell to 1-2.
Local coach Dan Gonzalez liked what he saw again and thinks the win goes a long way toward giving DVC schools something to think about:
“Laguna Creek is going to be tough. Monterey Trail is much improved and Franklin is Franklin. This was huge for us … how this (game) went is how it’s going to go (in league). The first half was theirs. The second half we found some energy … shots started going down.”
The Blue Devils started slowly for the second straight evening. Trailing 17-13 after one period, just before halftime DHS gave the 500 fans in attendance a hint of what was to come.
Down 36-29 with 2:04 left until intermission, the Devils went on a 9-3 run — punctuated by James Kilkenny’s trey that ruffled the net as the horn sounded. The shot, enabled by a Grant Dickerson assist, closed the gap to one.
To start the third period, Davis went on a 6-0 run — thanks to the continued impressive play of Hayden Russell — before Franklin had to call a quick time-out and regroup.
Back and forth it went until Brandon Strong’s 3-point shot was accompanied by a foul. When Strong sank the charity toss (making it 49-48 at 4:46), the Blue Devils were poised to take control of the contest.
Brett Bloomfield’s steal and bucket signaled a 66-53 DHS lead with just nine minutes remaining. The Devils used Strong’s eight points and Russell’s clutch play as the clock waned to keep Franklin at arm’s length.
For the three days at Bella Vista, Russell averaged 23 points per game — scoring 29 on Saturday — and Kevin Sorensen was good for 17 ppg. On Saturday, Russell added six assists, five steals and five rebounds in another extended stay on the court.
On a team that has become known for its breakneck offensive pace and 60-second shifts for its players, Russell, Dickerson and Sorensen are seeing more playing time this winter as Gonzalez continues to tweak the 90-shots-a-game style called The System.
So how has the additional playing time — Russell was in the game for 18 minutes against the ‘Cats — evolved?
“I’m not really sure … but Coach G is calling my number. I’ll take it,” Russell told The Enterprise after the victory.
How are this winter’s Blue Devils are different from last season’s 14-12 club, which missed the playoffs by one game?
“This year we’re deeper, a lot more shooters,” Russell said. “We’ve bonded really well already and Coach G has found the groups that play well together. We’re already clicking like we did halfway through last year, which is really good.”
It was a good thing the offense was “clicking” because DHS was having dickens of a time with Franklin’s 6-foot-6 post master Benson Osayande.
Scoring at least six points in each period, the junior finished with 35 to go with six rebounds and two assists. But Davis’ Dickerson found opportunities to at least slow the Wildcat big man, blocking three of Osayande’s shots. Dickerson finished with four blocks on the night to go with four points, three steals and a game-high nine rebounds.
Kilkenny finished with 10 points, Strong went for 15 — including four 3-pointers — and Sorensen’s 13 points accompanied eight boards and two assists.
The Devils outrebounded Franklin 50-41, hit 8-of-37 from beyond the arc and forced 20 turnovers while throwing the ball away 18 times themselves.
Russell and Sorensen were accorded all-tournament honors.
Next up is a nonleague game new to the Blue Devils’ schedule. DHS travels to Natomas on Tuesday.
Notes: As Davis was lowering the boom on Franklin, folks at the DHS varsity football banquet at Holmes Junior High were trying to make hors d’oeuvres last as they waited for six football players — Adam King, Dickerson, C.K. Hicks, Bloomfield, Austin Lampley and Sorensen — to arrive. … Until Saturday, Franklin was 16-1 all time against DHS. Russell knows this early-season win could be a game-changer: “Definitely, (the win) means a lot. Last year we couldn’t beat Franklin and (Saturday) we just beat them. We’re not at our best yet, but if we keep getting better, once DVC comes it will be a 20- or 30-point victory, hopefully.” Right now the Devils are content to make it 16-2.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at email@example.com or 530-747-8047.