Basketball off to a great start

By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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One would be hard pressed to come up with a better start to the 2013-14 basketball campaigns than three tournament championships in essentially the first week of the season. But that’s what the boys from Lincoln and Whitney high schools did, as well as the Wildcats girls basketball team.

After a relatively sluggish start against Del Oro in their opening contest of the preseason, the Fighting Zebras came back to put a hurt on Woodland. Nine striped stallions scored on the Wolves and left the visiting club howling for mercy. Lincoln showed very little and rolled to a 39-point victory.

Whitney’s girls have yet to lose. They made a tremendous comeback to tie neighbor Lincoln 40-40 at the end of regulation and pretty much ran away with things in overtime.

But don’t discount the gentler-gender Zebras. Their new head coach, Tim Sprinkles, seemed relatively unmoved by the loss with a bit of that proverbial “ice water” coursing through his veins.

“We backed off a little bit in the second half,” Sprinkles said after the game. “The thing we need to work on is growing with our basketball IQ.”

I think he could be onto something, considering the club’s struggles the past two years.

Getting back to Whitney, the club traveled south for the Los Banos/Pacheco Invitational tournament and did a woodshed number on the competition down there. New head coach Sydney Gaston’s ‘Cats outscored their opponents 186-65; the championship game was a 35-point rout.

It’s possible the Los Banos Union School District will be looking to invite a bit friendlier foe next season.

Where the Whitney girls dominated their tournament, the Lincoln boys electrified in theirs.

The Zebras dispatched their first two opponents in the Wheatland Invitational by a wide margin, but had to tackle an undefeated Encina Prep in the championship matchup. The Bulldogs threw all they had at Lincoln, but the Robert Ash-coached cagers refused to yield.

With virtually no time on the clock and the score tied 65-65, Lincoln’s Jackson Sterling politely dropped in the winning shot from atop the key. The junior’s reward was to be smothered in a sea of yellow jerseys, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Meanwhile, Whitney’s boys had their season rudely interrupted by Woodcreek and decided to travel to Salinas for payback.

In the Eagle Classic tournament, the charges of new coach Nick French got a good test from Liberty High, but that was as exciting as it the Classic would get. The Wildcats opened the tournament with a 93-39 win and then gave Overfelt a 76-34 shellacking in the championship game.

I left out Rocklin because they did not play during this cold snap. But like the freezing temperatures, that will change.

The Quarry Classic is coming up, pitting virtually all of Whitney’s basketball teams against Rocklin’s on the Thunder campus Dec. 20. There will be a tribute to former Rocklin, Sierra andMenlo basketball player Sasha Brown between the girls and boys varsity games.

Brown unexpectedly passed away last summer.

There are no new coaches at Rocklin, but don’t think Casey Cutts (boys) and Rob Ferraro (girls) are without new ideas. They both made the playoffs and the boys went on to regionals last season. Both will be looking to take their teams even further this year.