Mike Wall’s suit coat is off before some games are two minutes old if things start off rocky for his team. On Friday night, Folsom High’s fiery varsity basketball coach wore his jacket the entire game against Rocklin, as the Bulldogs played arguably their best game of the season in a 71-50 win over the Thunder.
Rocklin entered the game with a 16-1 record, and Wall had called them the early favorites to win the Sierra Foothill League. Perhaps he might change his mind after the way his team played.
“We won by 21, but it seemed like we won by more than that,” Wall said. “I felt we blew a fair amount of opportunities with missed layups and turnovers, which gave them some life. Our defense was spot-on tonight; as good as we’ve played all year. Our rebounding was the best it’s been all year. Rocklin is traditionally a very good offensive team. We were able to keep them out of rhythm tonight and probably held them well below their season average in points.”
The Bulldogs (13-4) jumped on the Thunder early, playing their best quarter in the first when they opened up a 20-9 lead. The quarter set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Thunder knew the Bulldogs were for real and that nothing would come easy.
“We didn’t play with the energy we needed when you’re playing a good team,” Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said. “Credit to Folsom, their defensive pressure affected our guards, and got us out of things we’d normally try to do. We weren’t as aggressive and didn’t play fast or with the energy we needed.”
The Bulldogs have a deep backcourt, as Cameron Wall, Dylan Davis, Malik Jackson and Jerrald Cummings played hard and aggressively and created a lot of turnovers. Add in swingmen Jalen Scott and Tiler Fears and post player DeShawn Lynch, and the Bulldogs were too much for the Thunder on this night.
Leading 7-5 a few minutes into the game, Folsom outscored the Thunder 13-4 over the second half of the quarter. Davis knocked down his second three of the quarter and followed it with a layup in transition. Fears, Cummings, and Wall also had similar layups in the quarter, while Lynch added a pair of free throws. Folsom’s strong defense not only held Rocklin to nine points, but also led to easy layups in transition.
Rocklin is no slouch, and it improved its play. The Thunder ended the second quarter on a 16-5 run, and just three-plus minutes into the third quarter, trailed by only four, 36-32. Liam Mays drained a three-pointer; Henry Strecker converted a transition layup, and a pull-up jumper from Cory Gohl brought the Thunder to within four points.
Folsom, however, answered with the next seven points, and Rocklin never challenged the rest of the way. Wall converted a three-point play; Lynch scored in transition, and Fears made a bucket in the paint to make the score 43-32 with 3:11 to play in the quarter.
“We just came out focused; that was the key,” Scott said. “When we focus as a unit on one goal, we play a lot better. On defense, we just tried to disrupt their offense and make it hard for them to score. Offensively, we just tried to be patient and take good shots. That’s when we play our best.”
Fears scored 16 points to lead Folsom, while Lynch added 13, and Davis finished with 10. Secondary scoring also came from Jackson (eight), Wall (seven), Scott (six) and Cummings (five). Gohl led the Thunder with 17 points, and Darrius Kendall had nine. Strecker scored eight, while Evan Terry and Ethan Remmers scored six.
While it was a great start to league play for the Bulldogs, and a not-so-great start for the Thunder, it’s only one of 10 league games.
“We just need to get back to what we’ve built our success on, and that’s to play hard on defense, and attack and be aggressive on offense,” Taylor said. “ I’ve always felt that in the toughest games your best players have to play their best and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Wall was pleased to win, but realizes it’s only one win.
“It’s a nice way to start league,” Wall said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Rocklin ran the table. Our next game there will be a great atmosphere with a lot of fans.”
Folsom 63, Rocklin 34
Folsom’s varsity girls’ team also earned a convincing win over the Thunder, winning by 29 points in their first home game of the season.
The Bulldogs (12-2) outscored the Thunder (9-10) by just over a third of the final margin of victory, as they led 19-9 after the first quarter. The Thunder had trouble getting the ball over half-court on many occasions, as Folsom converted several easy layups off of turnovers. When teams are taking more shots than the opponent and a lot of those shots are layups, it’s easier to score and open up a big lead, which is what Folsom did.
While Rocklin doubled its score in the second quarter, Folsom increased its advantage to 25 points by halftime, as the perimeter shooting heated up. Devry Millett hit three threes in the quarter, as she scored 11 of her game-high 18 points. Annie Malekos also knocked down a three-pointer in the quarter, the quarter that put the game out of reach.
Charity Gallegos scored 12 points in the win, while Malekos had eight, and Keara Colombo scored six, all in the first quarter.
Lillian Dyer scored 13 points to lead the Thunder.
“It was a sloppy game, but I’m happy to win,” Folsom coach Lynn Wolking said. “I’m glad we had our whole team together for the first time this season. Devry shot the ball really well and that helped. We’ve got to play a lot better defensively in all areas.”