Checklist for Break the Record Night at Davis High:
Full house? Check … 1,272 fans packed into the North Gym, which broke the previous record of 1,266.
Loud? Check … after a pre-planned “silent night” to start the game, the DHS students exploded in cheers when the Blue Devils scored their 10th point on a layup by Ted Riffle and continued their raucous support all night.
Most importantly, did Davis find a way to beat Franklin, a team that normally has the locals’ number? Check.
Using one of their best all-around performances on the season, the Blue Devils kept their playoff hopes alive with a 75-68 win over the Wildcats.
“I tell the guys that it’s special to be playing in front of a crowd like this, they’ll never forget it,” DHS head coach Dan Gonzalez told The Enterprise. “There’s no doubt that the crowd inspired us to play with more energy.
“We knew we had lost to these guys by 20 the time before, but having a crowd like that behind you gives us an extra edge.”
The crowd clearly inspired the Devils (15-8, 4-3 Delta Valley Conference) to come out and play high-energy basketball as Davis started out on fire from downtown.
Senior Matt Michael opened up with a basket from long range, then junior Drew Gnos connected on a bomb. Senior Ben Crook, who returned after missing a couple of games with a knee injury, nailed two treys in the period while local sharpshooters Brandon Strong and Glen Welch also hit from downtown before the first quarter ended.
After shooting 9-of-54 from beyond the arc in that loss to Franklin (16-8, 4-3) last month, the Blue Devils drained six treys in the first quarter Friday, finishing 11-of-42.
“We knew coming into this game that they were going to lock me down, and lock Matt down,” Strong said. “We were running through screens, getting us open, but in the end it just took heart and we just fought through it.
“Our teammates helped us out; we can’t give enough credit to our teammates who are out there setting screens, getting us open. They don’t get the credit, but they were the ones who got us open.”
DHS entered intermission with a 38-26 lead.
In fact, the Devils nurtured a double-digit advantage for the majority of the game, largely due to contributions from the entire team. When it was all said and done 11 of 14 Davis players had scored at least two points.
Michael led that group with 17, and Strong (14), Brett Bloomfield (eight), Crook (seven) and Ryan Kreidler (seven) each came up big.
“It was a great team effort; everyone was getting in, everyone had energy… It’s just great when we come out as a team instead of individuals,” Michael said.
Added Strong, “I’m always telling this team: ‘Everyone has something to contribute.’ Everyone brings something special to our team, and it takes each and every one of us to win.”
When Franklin finally made a late run to cut into the lead, the Blue Devils — who had shot 7-of-15 from the charity stripe in the first three quarters — went 9-for-10 in the final minute to ensure victory. Michael, Strong, Bloomfield and Kreidler made the shots.
“Clutch-Clutch-Clutch,” Gonzalez said, when asked about his team’s free throw shooting down the stretch. “We’ve been working on that quite a bit in the last few days because this is going to be a tough league. Free throws are going to make a difference.”
After the Wildcats missed two desperation treys in the waning moments, DHS fans stormed the court to celebrate the win.
Now, the Devils head out on the road to face Laguna Creek, a team they beat in a thriller earlier this season. Gonzalez says the locals will try to match the intensity they played with Friday in that Wednesday matchup with the Cardinals.
“There’s no letting up,” Gonzalez said. “Just because we won (Friday) — and we’re going to enjoy it, we know it was huge — we’ve still got work to do. We gotta repeat this performance every night.”
Note: With the DHS win, the DVC race became much more interesting. Grant has the outright conference lead, with a 6-1 mark, while three 4-3 teams are tied for second place: Davis, Franklin and Monterey Trail. With the new Sac-Joaquin Section playoff rules, only three of the four squads will make the playoffs.
— Reach Thomas Oide at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterThomas