The Wolverines on Wednesday night did just that and re-asserted their dominance over Bay Valley Athletic League teams, coming away with a 71-53 victory against Freedom in the semi-final round of the North Coast Section playoffs.
Earlier that night, Deer Valley’s girls basketball team earned a trip to the NCS championship game with a 42-38 win over Mission San Jose.
The Deer Valley boys, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, face No. 1 De La Salle Friday night at 8 p.m. at St. Mary’s College in Moraga with the NCS title on the line.
“It’s a lot of relief,” Phillips said Wednesday night. “A lot of the guys played fairly well.”
Senior guard Olajuwon Garner came up big for the Wolverines, contributing timely perimeter shooting and finishing with a game-high 22 points. Junior center Marcus Lee excelled on both sides of the ball, swatting away several Freedom shots and scoring 21 points. Junior guard Kendall Smith netted 15 points for Deer Valley.
Sophomore forward Elliot Smith was the highest-scoring Falcon, finishing with 20 points. Junior guard James O’Neal bolstered Freedom’s efforts with a 10-point night. Junior center Jehiah Gennaro contributed nine more points.
Deer Valley started off hot, posting a quick 16-8 lead over Freedom in the first quarter thanks to two key three-pointers by Garner. The Falcons stayed competitive in the second quarter, at one point tying it at 22. But the 6-foot 8-inch Lee put his team back on top after that, and Freedom never got closer.
Both teams will compete in the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal Regional Tournament, which starts March 7.
Deer Valley has a short time to prepare for the NCS title game against De La Salle. Castro Valley gave the Spartans a tough challenge, but a second-half run propelled De La Salle to a 47-29 win.
“They’re a tough matchup,” Phillips said. “Across the board, we just have to match the intensity and we’ll be all right.”
Deer Valley 42, Mission San Jose 38
While Mission San Jose brought a large contingent of loud fans to Deer Valley’s gym on Wednesday night, it was the Wolverines who had the final say.
Deer Valley outlasted a tenacious Warriors team in a 42-38 victory. The No. 2 Wolverines now face No. 1 Berkeley at 6 p.m. on Friday at St. Mary’s College.
“We’re never out of the game,” head coach Mark Hurtado said. “They made the plays they needed at the end.”
The Wolverines and Warriors were tied at 22 going into the half, and Mission San Jose claimed a four-point lead with 6:32 remaining in the game. Deer Valley called a timeout to regroup, and immediately chipped away at the lead.
Two minutes later, the teams were tied at 35. Following a Mission San Jose free throw that gave the Warriors a one-point lead, the Wolverines struck back. Junior guard Sabrea Coleman stole a pass, then sophomore center Alejandra Cephas made a shot to give Deer Valley a 37-36 lead it did not relinquish.
Senior guard Monique Mulder, who has emerged as the team’s leader, netted a game-best 20 points for Deer Valley. Cephas was the next highest scorer, contributing nine. She and sophomore forward Maranne Johnson also made several key blocks for the Wolverines.
Senior Maya Ramachandran scored 15 for Mission San Jose; senior Ilene Tsao contributed 11 to the effort.
Deer Valley plays Berkeley in the front end of a St. Mary’s College doubleheader on Friday. The Yellowjackets on Wednesday dismissed Heritage in a 54-31 victory.
“We have the potential to do a lot of things,” Hurtado said. “We match up well with Berkeley.”
Berkeley 54, Heritage 31
Heritage’s impressive run at the section tournament ended in a 54-31 loss to the top-seeded host Berkeley Yellowjackets.
Berkeley, traditionally one of NCS’ toughest teams, was simply too much for the Patriots to handle. The Yellowjackets held a 33-9 lead at halftime. Arizona State-bound senior guard Elisha Davis led all scorers with 15 for Berkeley. Teammate Jasmin Guinn netted 14.
Ali Ramirez led Heritage scorers with 10 points; Sabrina Engelstad contributed nine.
“They blitzed us hard early and we didn’t recover from it,” head coach Dan Swan said. “It was a solid run, but we’re not done yet.”
Though Heritage is out of the NCS tournament, the Patriots qualified for the CIF NorCal Regionals.