T-Wolves set new school record with win over Cougars

Woodcreek creates new benchmark with 30-win season
By: Steven Wilson,
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Boys Basketball - Open Division 

3/10 - No. 1 Woodcreek - 68, No. 8 Capital Christian - 66

3/14 - No. 1 Woodcreek vs. No. 4 De La Salle, 7 p.m.

Girls Basketball - Division II

3/8 - No. 9 Roseville - 58, No. 8 Montgomery - 51

3/11 - No. 9 Roseville at No. 1 Vanden, 6 p.m.

Girls Basketball - Division VI

3/11 - No. 4 VCA - 65, No. 5 Mendocino - 37

3/11 - No. 4 VCA at No. 1 Fall River, 7 p.m.

Boys Basketball - Division I

3/8 - No. 15 Granite Bay - 57, No. 2 Heritage - 60

Survive and advance.

That’s the mindset for the Woodcreek High boys basketball team in the CIF Northern California Open Division Regional Tournament and that’s exactly what they did against visiting Capital Christian Friday night.

In front of a raucous crowd in their home gym, the Timberwolves capitalized on a pair of crucial 3-pointers from senior guard Tyrell Roberts and converted their free throws late in the game to keep the Cougars at bay and earn a 68-66 victory in the NorCal opener. 

Roberts’ first trey came with just over two minutes left in regulation as he broke open a tie game. The 5-foot-11 guard was drifting to his left when he got a pass from Naequan Parker. As the shot clocked neared zero, he quickly elevated and put Woodcreek in front, 61-58.

“At that point, I was just thinking about the win — we needed to do whatever we could to win,” Roberts explained. “I saw some open opportunities and it’s just about having confidence in the work that I put in.”

Before Capital Christian could answer on the other end, Roberts went back to work.

He hit another bomb from the left wing to put his team up, 64-58 with 1:37 left in regulation, and Roberts nearly sealed the deal with a corner three, but it rimmed out.

“I thought I had that one, too,” Roberts said with a smile. “Maybe I was too open.”

The pair of triples pushed Roberts to 18 points in the game, but 12 of those came in the fourth quarter as he came up clutch for his team down the stretch.

In all, the Timberwolves tallied 19 points in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Cougars by two and matching their highest total in the game after a hot start. Fellow senior Jackson Hughes helped the team hold off a late rally from the Cougars as he converted a three-point play and drained two more freebies.

“(Roberts) can knock down the 3 as well as anybody,” Woodcreek’s coach Paul Hayes acknowledged. “We needed those, and those free throws down the stretch were huge.”

The late-game surge helped Woodcreek climb back out in front after Capital Christian tied the game at 49-all heading to the fourth quarter. 

The Cougars, who were led by senior Austin Alexander’s 15 points, used an 18-13 run in the third period to gain some momentum back after trailing by five at halftime.

“(Alexander) and (Zachary Chappell) just put up some incredible shots,” Hayes admitted. “I thought we played pretty good defense, but they are a talented team with a bunch of good shooters.”

Capital Christian, which won the D3 Sac-Joaquin Section championship last weekend, played to the final whistle and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but Chappell’s final shot went wide-right and the Timberwolves stormed the court and celebrated their record-setting 30th win of the season.

“Postseason plays brings the best out of every team,” Roberts stated. “I’m happy we got the win, but Capital played hard. I know a few guys on that squad and I know they’ll be back next year and be just as good as always.”

With Friday’s win, the Timberwolves advance to the second round of the Open Division bracket where they’ll face No. 4 De La Salle. The Spartans took down Salesian, 36-31, in the opening round and have awaited a potential rematch against the Timberwolves since the 2015 NorCal playoffs when Woodcreek survived a defensive slugfest, 43-39, in Brown’s rookie campaign.

“That was an intense game, and I remember it well,” admitted Brown, who tallied a double-double for the T-Wolves Friday night with 19 points and 20 rebounds. “That was one of the first times I actually got out of my normal state of mind. It was my freshman year, and they had one specific player that was trying to get me wilded up and get me out of the game with silly fouls. But coming back in my junior year, I know better.”

Back in their 2015 matchup with the Spartans, Brown had a team-high 18 points on 9-for-12 shooting. The Timberwolves claimed the CIF Northern California Division I semifinal win and sent longtime De La Salle coach Frank Allocco into retirement on a loss.

“It was his last game before he retired,” Hayes recalled. “So they’re going to want to come up here and they’re going to be hungry for redemption.”

Brown and co. will be back in action Tuesday night in what is expected to be another sell-out game. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.