Woodcreek's back-to-back bid comes up short

Timberwolves will travel in first round of NorCal Regionals
By: Robbie Enos/Roseville Press Tribune Correspondent
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The two-strike hitter. The 12th-round boxer. The fourth-quarter running back. The Jarvis Watkins. They have the same thing in common – attacking at their best with the most important situation on the line.

Watkins, a forward and team captain for Antelope High School, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday night to shatter Woodcreek’s hope of back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division II boys basketball titles. The final score was 62-61, thanks to clutch plays the fearless Titan in crunch time at Power Balance Pavilion.

“That’s a real good Antelope team,” Woodcreek coach Paul Hayes said. “They deserve to be there, and they deserve what they have accomplished.”

The score was tied at 56 with 2:42 left, and Watkins took control from there. He had the ball in his hands during a two-on-two fast break. He converged toward the basket to draw defenders and then quickly dished off to Kei’shaun Sinclair for an easy layup.

On another possession in crunch time, Watkins accelerated into the paint to pull off a sweet finish for two points and a foul. Woodcreek center Luke Summers, a junior filling in for senior Sam Anderson, who was out with a torn ACL, made a huge play for the Timberwolves on the other end, rebounding a missed shot and putting it back for two points and a foul. He hit the free throw to pull Woodcreek within one with 1:30 remaining.

“You just have to keep driving,” Watkins said. “Just keep driving and look to dish also. Just go strong with the ball.”

Summers came back with another put-back to give Woodcreek a one-point lead with 43 seconds left, but Watkins delivered the final blow. He plunged into the paint once more to pull off another flashy finish, scoring two more points and drawing a foul.

“We’ve been in these tough situations, so we know how to compose ourselves,” Watkins said. “We just need to compose and stay calm.”

Watkins missed the free throw, but Isaiah Ellis came up with the offensive rebound. He was stripped and Woodcreek regained possession and called a time out with 3.7 seconds remaining. Tyler Milani’s Hail Mary from half court missed, and the game was history.

Hayes mentioned the loss of Anderson as a factor. Anderson’s 6-foot-7 height and suffocating defense was missed, but Hayes was more than happy with the performance of Summers, who hit clutch shots and had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“We only had one day of practice to adjust without Sam. He was a big part of what we did,” Hayes said. “Luke did a very solid job filling in.”

The Timberwolves burst out of the gate with a 10-0 run and led 23-8 after the first quarter. The remainder of the game was a roller coaster for both teams.

The Titans brought out a press and held the potent Woodcreek offense to five points in the second quarter. Aggressiveness was key for the Titans on both ends of the court. The press forced Woodcreek into sloppy play, and the Timberwolves were unable to develop a rhythm.

Watkins set the tone for the offense, attacking the bucket and earning fouls and free throws. The Titans went 10 for 14 from the line in the second quarter and led 30-28 at halftime.

The Timberwolves adjusted to the press, and their offensive game had more flow. Milani had four assists in the third quarter, thanks to a drive-and-dish strategy. John Peska hit two three-pointers off of Milani’s passes to keep Woodcreek in the hunt.

Peska and point guard Devin Murphy finished with double doubles – Peska with 22 points and 11 rebounds, Murphy with 21 points and 16 rebounds. But the Titans did a solid job covering Milani, who had zero points, and no bench players scored for Woodcreek.

“We maybe could have made a couple more adjustments on defense,” Hayes said when asked what more he thought the team could have done to win. “The help-side defense was tough. That’s a real athletic team. Solid team.”

The next step for the Timberwolves is the Northern California Regionals. Woodcreek learned Sunday it is the 10th seed and will play at No. 7 Mountain View-St. Francis (15-13) at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner will play at No. 2 Santa Rosa-Montgomery (28-2) at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s not over for us yet,” Hayes said. “I hope these guys take it to heart and step on the floor next practice with a game you remember. When you remember that, you can use that as incentive.”

Antelope, which lost to St. Mary's in the section final, is the No. 6 seed for the NorCal Regionals and will be home against No. 11 Walnut Creek-Northgate (23-6) at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The winner travels to face No. 3 Chico (27-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Antelope 62, Woodcreek 61
Antelope (62)

Watkins 8 4-10 20, Winters 3 6-8 12, Campbell 0 0-0 0, King 0 0-0 0, Ellis 1 3-6 4, Sinclair 5 2-3 13, Martin 2 1-1 6, Mullane 1 2-2 4, Gordon 0 2-2 2. Totals 20 20-32 62.
Woodcreek (61)
Peska 8 4-6 22, Geyer 4 0-0 8, Murphy 10 1-4 21, Milani 0 0-0 0, Summers 4 2-4 10. Totals 26 7-14 61.

Antelope       8  22  18  14 – 62
Woodcreek  23    5  21  12 – 61

Three-point goals – Woodcreek 2 (Peska 2), Antelope 2 (Sinclair, Martin). Rebounds – Woodcreek 47 (Murphy 16, Peska 11, Summers 7, Geyer 4, Milani 4, Morse 3, Kimball 2,), Antelope 29 (Ellis 9, Winters 7, Watkins 3, Martin 3, Mullane 2, Sinclair 2, King, Gordon, Campbell). Assists – Woodcreek 11 (Milani 4, Murphy 2, Kimball, Peska, Kimball, Morse, Summers), Antelope 8 (Campbell 2, Watkins 2, Gordon, Martin, Winters, Sinclair). Steals – Woodcreek 5 (Murphy, Kimball, Milani, Peska, Geyer), Antelope 8 (Sinclair 3, Mullane 2, Watkins 2, Campbell).