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Thunder win SFL, focus shifts to finishing unbeaten

Rocklin should be ranked No. 1 for playoffs
By: Russ Edmondson, The Placer Herald
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Although Rocklin High's varsity boys basketball team is not likely to drop from the top spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division II power ratings regardless of what happens this week, it would still like to close out the regular season on a high note. The Thunder, which clinched the Sierra Foothill League title Friday with a victory at Nevada Union, hosted Del Oro on Wednesday and will host Woodcreek in their finale at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Woodcreek is 7-18 overall and 0-10 in SFL play while the Thunder are 24-1 overall and 10-0 in league. Rocklin's only loss was Dec. 6 against Kennedy. We did not talk about the league title on Friday night after the game, Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said. We focused on just surviving that game and getting out of there. I'm going to stress that we have a chance to do something that no other (Rocklin) team has done and that's go unbeaten (in league). And if they can do that that will be their legacy as a team. That's going to be the focus this week. We need to try to play solid this week and stay healthy. Rocklin will host a playoff game Feb. 20 and also Feb. 22 if the Thunder are victorious in the opening round. The section semifinals will be held Feb. 28 at Arco Arena with the section title game at Arco Arena on March 1. Rocklin will play Vallejo in the first round if the ratings are unchanged following this week's games. The last time Rocklin went into the playoffs as the top seed (2001) it won the section championship. Even though we'll likely be the No. 1 seed, unfortunately in Division II, from top the bottom, it's stronger than it's ever been, Taylor said. A team like Monterey Trail (No. 12) or Pleasant Grove (No. 15) can slip down and they are very good teams. The Thunder hammered Nevada Union 76-50 in the first half of league play but won Friday's road game 62-60. Rocklin led for most of the game but the Miners led by one point late in the fourth quarter. Thunder sophomore point guard Jackson Cummings converted a lay-up to put his team up by a point with about a minute remaining and Rocklin didn't relinquish the lead again. The Miners hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds remaining but Rocklin was able to inbound a kill the rest of the clock. Thunder junior Brendan Lane, 6-foot-10, had a big night. He collected 27 points and 11 boards despite dealing with Nevada Union's aggressive defense. They guarded him with a lot of guys “ and it ended up being a real physical game. The officials needed to call fouls and they didn't, Taylor said. They allow them to get a huge advantage “ it's not supposed to be a contact sport where you can shove (Lane) out of the post. Cummings added 17 points in the win. We felt very fortunate to get out of there with a win, Taylor said. This group has continually found a way to get it done when they need to.