Woodcreek tops GB, wraps up SFL top spot

Grizzlies likely out of postseason mix
By: Galen Kusic, Press Tribune Correspondent
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The Woodcreek Timberwolves completed a championship season Friday night with a 66-53 victory over the Granite Bay Grizzlies to claim the outright Sierra Foothill League title. "All of our senior class has been working since fifth grade for this moment," said Woodcreek senior forward Nik Stathopoulos. The Timberwolves got out to an early lead and never looked back- controlling the tempo and flow of the game by getting to every loose ball and controlling all key rebounds. "Both of us were going do-or-die, and Granite Bay has been playing really well lately," said Woodcreek head coach Burnell Pinkerton. "We went at it with the mental approach of this is a one-game deal, and if we wanted the championship we had to get it tonight." Woodcreek led 35-24 at the break behind strong interior play from senior center Mike Kurtz, scoring nine of his 14 points, while blocking four shots in the first half. After the Grizzlies came out double and triple teaming the 6-foot-11 center in the third quarter, Stathopoulos was called on to carry the scoring load down the stretch. He scored 13 of his team-high 19 in the final 16 minutes. "We knew Granite Bay was going to do something different tonight," Stathopoulos said. "Our guys stepped it up big." After putting up nine in the first half, Woodcreek guard Nik Milani was held to just a field goal as fellow guards Ryan Milat, Ryan Sondhi and Devin Murphy combined for key buckets, clutch free throws, timely steals and crucial rebounds. Woodcreek was a step quicker all game long. Granite Bay came out on fire in the second half, going on an 11-4 run, led by Robert Duncan-scoring nine consecutive points to cut the lead to 41-34 just three minutes into the third quarter. Duncan led all Grizzlies scorers with 16 points, while Jon Davis and Jake Riffice contributed 10 a piece. Granite Bay knocked at the door the entire second half, but every time the Grizzlies knocked, Woodcreek's supporting cast answered loudly. "That's what these guys are more than anything else, is a team- in every sense of the word," said Pinkerton. "It is really satisfying to coach such a fine group of young men. We are like a family." The Grizzlies cut the lead to 56-49 with four minutes to play, but it was as close as Granite Bay would get as the Timberwolves hit all their free throws and controlled the clock. "We just couldn't get them," said Granite Bay head coach Jason Sitterud. "It was a great season. We just never got the breaks it seemed like. We fought hard all the way. I'm happy for Pinkerton, he deserves it." The Grizzlies still have a slim chance to make the playoffs, finishing the year 16-11, and 4-8 in SFL play, but it would take a lot of unlikely help from other teams and other games. Woodcreek will take an overall regular season record of 22-5 (10-2) in the SFL into the Sac Joaquin section playoffs, where it should be the No. 3 seed in Division II. The Timberwolves will open at home at 7 p.m. Wednesday night. "If you stumble, you're gone- we find out who we play on Sunday," Pinkerton said. "It's do-or-die from here on out." "This has been a big momentum builder for us," Stathopoulos said. "We wrapped up league, now we're going for section.”