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Rocklin returns from San Diego with trophy

Thunder is dialed in as league begins
By: Jim Linsdau
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ROCKLIN– Looking ahead to beginning play in the Sierra Foothill League can be daunting, but the Rocklin High boys basketball team is about as ready for that task as a team can get.

 

Returning from San Diego, where the Thunder captured the “Governor” division of the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, the team did whatever it took to grab the brass ring.

 

Arriving in San Diego at noon, with a game scheduled against Cenega from Arizona at 9 p.m., the club got off to a solid start. Rocklin thumped the Bobcats, 89-62, hit the sack and rolled out for an 8:30 p.m. game against Saugus from Los Angeles.

 

“They were a very good team… We were actually down by five going into the fourth quarter,” said Thunder head coach Stephen Taylor. “The biggest thing, defensively in the fourth quarter we held them to six points. We defended really well in the fourth quarter.”

 

One Saugus player entered the final period with 27 points and finished that way. Rocklin changed up its defense and denied him the ball, while the Thunder offense put up 14 points for a 68-65 win.

 

Cory Gohl hit two clutch free throws to give Rocklin the three-point edge with eight seconds remaining. With the strategy of fouling as soon as the Centurions crossed half court, the timer forgot to start the clock and play was stopped.

 

The officials took three seconds off the clock and Saugus was allowed to inbound at half court. The Thunder managed to deflect the ball out on the baseline with three seconds showing. The L.A. club got a shot off and missed, but again the clock failed to start.

 

However, after the rebound went to the Storm the officials ended the game.

Darrius Kendall finished with 18 points. In the post, Jayden Siler scored 14 and Henry Strecker added 10.

 

“That was the best production we had from that position all year,” Taylor said. “That was a different kind of game where our big guys played really well and we needed them to because it was a close game.”

 

The following night, the Thunder defeated Citrus Hill 57-33 and advanced to the championship against El Camino of Oceanside. Both clubs came out strong, with Rocklin holding a two-point edge going into the fourth period.

 

But quarter four belonged to the Thunder, as the locals finished with a flourish. Kendall hit four 3-pointers in the final frame to give Rocklin an 80-71 championship finish. Liam Mays had 19 points and Gohl 17, as the two combined for six 3-point baskets in the contest; Donovan Lopez had 14 points.

 

“We had four people in double figures. I think that’s a real strength of our team is we have balance,” said Taylor. “We have different guys that can step up and score the ball, so it’s hard to just guard one guy or two guys because we have other people that can score.”

 

Kendall was named MVP of the tournament’s Governor Bracket. However, only one player from each team was named to the All-Tournament team. It should also be noted that Evan Terry and Handre Reinecke were nursing injuries and did not participate in the Holiday Classic.

 

Upon returning, the team was given three days rest, but will hit the SFL running Friday at Folsom. Taylor said the preseason is behind them now and they will approach league as a whole new season.

 

The head coach said he believes his players are mentally and physically tough enough to take on the grind of the SFL, but also mature enough to know they will be a target going in.

 

“We’re not going to sneak up on anybody, like we did in the last couple of years. Very rarely does anybody go through our league unscathed,” Taylor said. “There have been a few (preseason) games that we could have lost, but this group has (shown) a will to win. So I think they will take every game as a challenge and hopefully we’ll be able to get over each hurdle.”