When a team averaging almost 90 points a game also can shore up its defense, it feels like a harbinger of good things to come. If Friday’s game is in any indication, the Davis High boys basketball team is doing just that as it heads down its Delta Valley Conference homestretch.
“We’re working on our defense, making sure their guys don’t get … easy layups anymore,” Blue Devil guard Brandon Strong said after helping hold visiting Elk Grove in check for a 96-57 league victory.
Strong, who forced three Thundering Herd turnovers while collecting five rebounds, again had his long-range groove on in hitting five treys en route to a 17-point night.
Thanks to Laguna Creek’s 56-51 upset of Franklin, DHS (14-8, 4-2 in DVC) now finds itself in a four-way tie with those two teams and Grant at the top of this crazy conference.
But Friday’s contest started on shaky ground for the Devils …
With Herd wing Danny Goldman hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and Mike Wong grabbing two key offensive boards, Elk Grove jumped out to a 14-6 lead before Davis’ Hayden Russell said not in our house.
The locals’ leading scorer hit a long jumper from behind the arc, stopping the early bleeding.
Then a Strong steal led to a Russell lay-in off a Kevin Sorensen assist.
When Russell canned his 11th point of the period on another long-ranger, it set the stage for the Blue Devils to take a 17-16 advantage courtesy of a Russell-to-Sorensen-to-Strong triple.
C.K. Hicks’ bucket at 1:02 put DHS up 21-19, a lead from which it never looked back.
On the night, the Devils hit 14-of-37 treys. Strong and Russell (25 points) each nailed five and Brett Bloomfield added a pair.
Russell was, well, Russell. In addition to his big point production, the senior captain grabbed four rebounds, dished out two assists and had three steals.
Bloomfield again provided a white-hot intensity off the bench, hitting hit two bombs in the second period, then keeping Davis on track late as coach Dan Gonzalez used a patchwork offense in the fourth quarter
Bloomfield finished with 15 points on a five-for-nine shooting night.
Hitting on all cylinders after its slow start, the Devils went on a 12-0 second-period run — fueled by Grant Dickerson’s three blocks (he had five altogether).
After fashioning a 47-36 halftime lead, DHS went lights-out on Elk Grove in a 28-7 third-quarter blitz.
Hicks (six points and five rebounds) had a solid second half and Russell and Strong combined for 18 in the stanza.
So what was the difference between Friday’s near-perfect game and Wednesday’s 75-67 loss to Franklin?
Strong credits a renewed focus on defense, good team offense and the hometown crowd of more than 500 fans.
“We’re working on defense in practice,” the junior bombardier told The Enterprise. “We were setting great screens (Friday). I can’t give enough credit to James Kilkenny … he was setting screens for me the whole time, keeping me open.
“(The crowd) definitely gives us a lot of energy. They get us pumped up and ready to go. We love it when (the fans) are out here.”
With four games left, the DVC pennant could go anywhere.
The Blue Devils have a bear of a task on Wednesday, traveling to Grant (16-7, 4-2). Davis topped the Pacers, 80-76, at home on Jan. 11.
Meanwhile, Laguna Creek (13-10, 4-2) is seeing its five transfers finally work together. The Cards — winners of four straight — host Elk Grove on Wednesday, while Franklin (10-11, 4-2) is at Monterey Trail (9-14, 0-6).
Gonzalez may have hit the nail on the head two weeks ago when he said “the DVC could be won by a 7-3 or 6-4 school.”
While it’s anybody’s guess what the next two weeks hold, DHS and Laguna Creek get two more home games while Grant gets its next four at home. Franklin plays three of its final four on the road — before returning to its digs for the DVC finale against the Devils on Feb. 8.
Notes: Elk Grove coach Rudy Ortega is back after sitting out a year to spend time with his baby born during last season. … There were five technicals called in the physical contest and one such episode was especially costly for The Herd. At 5:22 of the final period, Bloomfield was unceremoniously forced out of bounds by Hasani Reese and a teammate. Words were exchanged and Davis’ Ben Crook and Reese were teed up. Reese, however, persisted — apparently saying the magic words — despite being restrained by teammates. He was given a second technical and ejected, for which he also will miss the Laguna Creek game. … Sorensen had another impressive outing. The senior scored 16, pulled down five rebounds, dished out a game-high six assists and had four steals. … Sean Ha (11) and Goldman (12) led Elk Grove scorers.