Thunder boys enter DII playoffs as the No. 6 seed

Rocklin hosts No. 11 Grant at 7 p.m. today
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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Rocklin High’s varsity boys basketball team, the winner of the last two Sac-Joaquin Section, Division II championships, enters the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. The Thunder (19-8 overall, 8-4 in the Sierra Foothill League) open at home at 7 p.m. today against No. 11 Grant. The winner either plays at No. 3 Yuba City or hosts No. 14 Cordova at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner of Friday’s game will advance to Arco Arena on March 4 for the DII semifinals. Rocklin has not played Grant, Yuba City or Cordova this season. Grant (16-9, 5-5 in the Metro League) has played two SFL opponents this season, losing to Granite Bay (75-61) and beating Roseville (74-43). Rocklin went 2-0 against both teams. “Grant is big and very athletic, they go 6-foot-7 and 6-5 (up front), and they like to play at a fast pace and that kind of fits our style of play,” Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said. “Their greatest strength is probably their ability to rebound (and get) second or third shots and that’s probably our least consistent area.” With a win over Grant the Thunder will likely battle Yuba City (23-3, 12-0 in the Tri-County League). Yuba City has not lost a game in 2010 and is 23-1 since dropping its first two games of the season. “They rolled through their league so they have a pretty strong team,” Taylor said. “Individually they have one of the top players in the area (6-7 Zach Nelson) and if we can get through Grant that will be a challenge to go up there.” Cordova (14-11 overall) went 6-6 in the Sierra Valley Conference. Rocklin, which reached the state title game last season, is trying to advance to Arco Arena for the fifth consecutive season. “Where we are seeded, we are not at the top, we are flying a little under the radar,” Taylor said. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think our kids are very motivated and will work hard to try to get back to Arco. There is a lot of balance in DII, quite a few teams probably feel like they have a chance.” The Thunder have lots of players with playoff experience in the backcourt, especially in seniors Cody Kale, Tony Williams, Jackson Cummings and Justin Soria. “It shouldn’t be intimidating to them,” Taylor said. “They should be excited about (the playoffs).” The Thunder are very healthy as the playoffs begin. “Jackson (Cummings) is as healthy as he has been all year and we need him to take on a larger role than he has been able to so far,” Taylor said. “We are as healthy as we can be.” Rocklin lost to visiting Del Oro 71-66 in the SFL finale on Friday. Rocklin, which led 18-11 after one quarter and 30-25 at the half, was dominated 23-11 in the third quarter. Seniors Alika Lemon (21 points, nine rebounds), Williams (20 points, four rebounds, two steals), Kale (12 points, eight assists, six rebounds, four steals) and Soria (11 points, six assists, four rebounds, four steals) led the Thunder. Rocklin and Del Oro tied for third in the SFL behind Woodcreek (10-2) and Oakmont (9-3).