This one wasn’t for the faint of heart.
Before a deafening home crowd of 1,266, the Davis High boys basketball team put itself in a promising postseason position with an 86-80 victory over Laguna Creek on Friday.
Heroic late play from Blue Devils Brett Bloomfield, Brandon Strong and Hayden Russell staved off a Cardinal rally, setting the stage for a win-and-they’re-in Wednesday contest with Monterey Trail.
“It was a kind of a must-win for us,” DHS coach Dan Gonzalez told The Enterprise. “I was impressed with our resiliency … of getting leads, then (when we) gave them up, being able to bounce back. It showed a lot of character for our team.”
Where to begin with this one?
First, it avenged an 86-85 Devil loss at The Creek on Jan. 16.
Second, it gives Davis (15-9, 5-3 Delta Valley Conference) a gambler’s chance for a league title.
Additionally, the locals are now in position to lock up a postseason nod with their 16th win of the winter when they host Monterey Trail (9-16, 0-8) on Wednesday. Sixteen wins, regardless of league standings, gets any squad a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.
And don’t forget that the 1,266 fans in attendance set a new standard on Break the Record Night.
The game itself started fast and seemingly never slowed. But it was five moments during the final 95 seconds of the contest that saved DHS’ bacon …
With the Blue Devils up just 80-78, Bloomfield scored his only basket of the night on a twisting runner.
Seconds later, the junior guard channeled his football inner self and dived what seemed like 15 feet through the air to corral a loose ball while challenged on the floor. An alert Kevin Sorensen called a quick timeout and saved the Davis possession.
On that possession, Bloomfield fed a hard-cutting Russell, whose basket put Laguna Creek (14-11, 5-3) in a six-point hole.
When Cardinal Erion Wilder’s jumper put the score back to 84-80 with 50 seconds left, LCHS coach Paul Casey called time and set a full-court trap.
But Bloomfield, Russell and Tommy Slabaugh managed to run clock, didn’t turn the ball over and, in fact, worked Slabaugh free for a good baseline look from eight feet. The shot clanked off the rim and looked like Laguna Creek property.
That was until Strong, a guard, sliced through LCHS players and snatched the carom from 6-foot-4 Jericho Avery. The offensive rebound eventually led to Russell being fouled, and the senior closed out the Cards with two free throws.
“My role is that if my shots aren’t going down, I dish to the guys or try to get them open,” Bloomfield said amid a sea of well-wishers after the dramatic win.
Gonzalez said he had talked with Bloomfield — who missed his first five shots — during the game:
“I told him ‘That’s OK. There’s a lot of other things you can do for us …’ ”
Like pull down a rebound, dish two assists, get a steal and a bucket — all in the waning minutes of the thriller.
Russell’s final charity tosses made him at 9-of-9 at the line during a 26-point, 13-rebound virtuoso performance.
The guard joined center Sorensen in not leaving the floor during the hammer-and-tongs fourth period (which was played to a 21-all standoff).
Fortunately for Davis, a 15-0 run turned a first-quarter, 10-7 Laguna Creek lead to a 22-10 Devil advantage. DHS then led 48-38 at intermission. Forty-five seconds into the third period, buckets by Russell and Sorensen gave the Blue Devils their biggest lead at 16 points.
But Laguna Creek was on a five-game win streak and had brilliant South Carolina transfer Andre Lewis just getting warm.
After scoring 35 against in last month’s victory over Davis, Lewis poured in 15 of his 28 points in the second half Friday — keeping the hosts from running away. He also had eight rebounds (five in the third period) and seven steals (four after the break).
The Cardinals had two 6-0 mini-runs to set up the late-game drama.
In addition to Russell and Lewis, three other players hit for double digits: Strong had 18 points (including four treys), Sorensen tallied 18 more (along with six rebounds) and LCHS reserve Brionne Mays added 11.
Notes: Grant (18-7, 6-2) is alone atop the DVC. DHS, Laguna Creek and the Devils’ Friday opponent, Franklin, all have 5-3 conference marks. … Starter Grant Dickerson played less than a minute for DHS. According to Gonzalez, “he heard something in his knee … it happened in football, too.” Gonzalez, knowing how important Dickerson is on defense, chose not to gamble with his senior, who did not re-enter. Dickerson reported to the coach that he felt fine afterward. … In a Break the Record Night promotion, hosts were handing out “Silent Night” cards, instructing fans not to get excited about the game until Davis scored its 10th point. Then, the crowd should erupt. The Devils’ 10th point came on a free throw by C.K. Hicks that 1) tied the game and 2) was his only point of the contest. “When we reached 10 points and that eruption …” Gonzalez said with a laugh, “boy, that just energized us.” There were 12 more unanswered points in what was a 15-0 run. … DHS student Maddie Peauroi sang the national anthem. … The old attendance record was 1,123 set two seasons ago.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.