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Back to familiar territory, Thunder returning to Arco

Rocklin road win at Yuba City sets up another battle with Woodcreek
By: Brett Ransford, Placer Herald Correspondent
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In arguably the most entertaining game to date of this year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs, the Rocklin High boys basketball team earned another trip to Arco Arena by topping Yuba City 77-70 in overtime. In front of Yuba City’s Brown Mob student section, the Thunder scorched through the final four minutes after forcing the extra session with a strong second half. Overtime was set up by a 20-13 third quarter and a 19-16 fourth period Rocklin advantage, as the Thunder gradually narrowed the 10-point halftime deficit. Chants of “overrated” from the Brown Mob towards Cody Kale were recited back in overtime by Rocklin fans as Kale scored 19 of his 30 points after the half. Without an assist in the first half ,Kale heeded the call with six assists and two steals in just the second half. “Coach reminded us that there is no 10-point play and we needed to chip away at it,” Kale said. “It was back and forth the whole time, neither team gave up. They were playing off me a little bit so I looked for my shot and was able to get a few as well as some for other guys too. I’m about as excited as I could possibly be. It’s a great feeling.” Yuba got in early foul trouble forcing Rocklin to make 13-of-16 in the first half. They finished 21-of-29 and hit 10-of-22 from three. Yuba committed a costly three turnovers in overtime, totaling 17 in the game. Tony Williams, Justin Soria and Jackson Cummings combined to knock down 4-of-6 three-pointers in the third quarter. The Honkers’ Donnie Triphan ended the third hitting a last second jumper while taking contact from Kale. The real drama followed in the fourth when Alika Lemon fouled out, and then Rocklin hit 3-of-4 three’s and tied the game for the first time since the first quarter. It was Kale with the tie on an assist to Cummings for a 3-pointer. The clutch shot was followed by a Yuba traveling violation and Soria with a turnaround jumper for the 54-52 lead. A series of fouls, free throws and huge offensive fouls absorbed by Soria and Kyle Trost favored the Thunder, who headed into the final possession with 21.9 seconds left in the fourth. Kale found Cummings who shot and missed the 3-pointer. With 2.5 seconds left the Honkers tossed the ball down court to Jesse Chima who apparently didn’t realize how little time he had and blew the opportunity to win the game. Early on in overtime, Williams caused a turnover on an inbounds and tied Triphan’s basket at 68-68. Trost was fouled and hit 1-of-2 free throws followed by another Yuba turnover allowing Kale to also make 1-of-2 for the 70-68 lead. After Chima fouled out, Williams had a timely steal and assist to Kale who was fouled and lead a 73-68 score with 1:38 left. Triphan then fouled out on a charge at the other end setting up a Kale pass to Soria for a 3—pointer that extended the lead to 76-70 with 8.9 seconds standing between the Thunder and yet another trip to Arco Arena. “I’m just so proud of this group. There is no quit in them,” said Rocklin Coach Steve Taylor. “We talked about how our experience would help us this week and it really did. The experience of our guys last year really carried into this game. Luckily there wasn’t a half second more on the clock in the fourth. Unfortunately in a game like this someone has to lose. We reminded ourselves that if we got behind or had a bad run we could weather the storm.” Tony Williams certainly stood at the front of the storm at times for his 19 points, 4 rebounds, and two steals. Williams hit a three bringing his team to 66-62 with 1:07 left in the fourth. Soria stole the ball at half court tossed and to Williams who elevated a huge dunk with 48.2 seconds left in the fourth and bringing his team within two at 66-64. Soria added the final two free throws before Chima ran out the clock. “My role in this game was to not think about the past and focus on the next shot going in and hoping it goes in,” said Williams. We’re coming in with a lot of confidence off this game. We were great taking charges, hitting three’s, hitting shots. Everybody contributed.” Soria’s contribution was seven points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals. He said the game was the best basketball game he had ever been a part of and the biggest win for his team. “This is the best team we’ve beaten on the road all year. We haven’t had a good, solid road win all year,” Soria said. “In league we struggled but so far in playoffs two road wins on tough teams. The ream relies on me to run the offense and I led the league in assist to turnover ratios. They call me Mr. Clutch so I had to make my shots when it mattered.” Yuba closes their season at 24-4 overall, 12-0 in the Tri-County League. Next up on the road to another section championship the Thunder, seeded No. 6 in D-II will face their SFL rival, the No. 2 Woodcreek Timberwolves Thursday at Aroc Arena in one of the section semifinals. Three SFL teams remain as Oakmont advanced past Jesuit to face Fairfield in Thursday’s other contest. Game times for those games will be made available Saturday afternoon.