Familiar foes, friendly finale between Woodcreek and Oakmont

Vikings, Timberwolves to battle for D-II title
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Three times already this season, Oakmont (22-6) has faced its nemesis, SFL champion Woodcreek (25-5), and come up on the short end.


The defeats include a blowout loss on its home court the last time it saw the Timberwolves. The Vikings have a healthy respect for Woodcreek, but they are not in awe.


“We have felt they are the best team in the section and have been the team to beat all along,” said Oakmont coach Rick Campbell. “It will be a special matchup because our kids know each other and have been playing together since they were little kids. I don't think you can script it much better than that.”


None of the prior matchups came with the importance attached to today’s battle. That, according to Woodcreek coach Burnel Pinkerton makes the prior meetings irrelevant to what happens inside Arco Arena Saturday.


It is a special matchup because it is two great teams with great kids on both sides, Pinkerton said. “They know, like, and respect each other. You can throw out everything that has previously happened and it is a one game, winner-take-all.”


It is the friendship factor that adds a whole new dimension to this battle.


“Rick (Campbell) is not just a friend,” Pinkerton said. “He is one of my best buddies. I have Sunday dinner with his family all the time. This is what basketball is all about - friendly cross-town rivalries playing for the section title.”


Coach P has been a family friend for a long time (my kids even call him Uncle),” Campbell said. “It’s actually an honor to call him a friend and to have the chance to coach against him in a game like this. Going into the season we talked about how much fun it would be to play against each other in this game. What's most important is it will be something that all the kids from both campuses will remember forever.  It will be special

for all involved.”


Despite the friendly nature of this rivalry, make no mistake – when the ball is tossed in the air, these kids want this game badly. After witnessing the scene after that last meeting in Oakmont’s gym, few expected this final duel, but there was always a feeling that it was possible.


“It should be a great game,” said Granite Bay coach Jason Sitterud. “The best thing is you have two great men in Coach P and Coach Campbell leading both squads. Each team has players such as Tony (Gill) and (Nik) Milani who will step up in the clutch and hit the big shots. Their teams play the game the right way, and play for each other.”


Now, both teams want to finish what they started. It will once again be a battle between two contrasting styles.


The second-seeded SFL champion Timberwolves are deep and talented. They like to pressure the ball all over the floor and create scoring opportunities with their defense. Woodcreek’s starting unit is outstanding, but its greatest asset may be it multiple combinations.


Between the inside dominance of 6-foot-11 center Mike Kurtz and the all-around game of Nik Milani, the shooting range of Ryan Milat and the ball-handling and distribution skills of Ryan Sondhi and Devin Murphy, the Timberwolves are a difficult matchup.


Nik Stathopoulos, Derek Anganes, John Peska and Jamie Geyer don’t always light up the scoreboard, but they may lead the league in hustle points.


Oakmont takes a more cerebral approach, built around the quiet dominance of 6-8 center Tony Gill. He is smooth with the ball and can score both inside and out.  J.T. Adenrele is the wildcard on the Viking front line as he will make exciting plays in the air on offense and by swatting balls into the stands on the defensive end.


Both Oakmont big men are tough to stop on the glass. The Vikings go inside to set up the long-range shooting of Alex Ford, and point guard Fred Mobley is a tough matchup at 6-3 with great athleticism. Oakmont is not known as a deep team, but with starting guard Matt Daly not with the team at this point, forwards Eric Marten and Nathaniel Grady move the ball well and fill a strong role on the defensive and offensive end of the field.


Cholo Serrano has recently been a nice find for Campbell, making plays in the backcourt to give Oakmont a little depth it did not think it had.


Oakmont center Tony Gill feels that his team’s confidence level will be a key difference this time around as the Vikings try to find the combination to finally get past the team that has handed them half of their losses this year.


“The difference this time is we have a bunch of guys believing we can win this thing,” Gill said. “We want this.”


The Sierra Foothill League has clearly proven it was worthy of all of the praise heaped upon it this season and now it has the chance to showcase its talent once again on the big stage of Arco Arena as its two best teams battle it out for a section crown.


“This is great for our league,” said Roseville coach Greg Granucci. “To see two SFL schools in the final and two from our school district is awesome.”


The Woodcreek players were not as concerned about who they play next, but remain supremely confident that they can get this done. Entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed, the Timberwolves have played like a team on a mission from the outset and that is sure to continue Saturday against the No. 4 Vikings.


“We know those guys and some of our guys have played with some of them,” Anganes said. “We just feel that anyone we play we will beat. We think we are the best team in the section.”


On Saturday, the Timberwolves get a chance to prove it one more time. The Division II section title game tips at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Arco Arena.



Coaches' Keys to Victory - Woodcreek vs. Oakmont title game


Seeking the help of a pair of experts to break down the section title game, we got input from Granite Bay coach Jason Sitterud and Roseville coach Greg Granucci on each team’s keys to victory today. Their lists were very similar and are included below in composite form. Two coaches who know these two teams well tell you what to watch for.


Sitterud and Granucci’s keys to an Oakmont win:

1 Find a way to control the pace of the game and use their size to their advantage.

2 Get Alex Ford going early to open up the inside for J.T. Adenrele and Tony Gill.

3 Fred Mobley needs to handle Woodcreek's pressure and get Oakmont in its offense with few turnovers.

4 Adenrele needs to stay out of foul trouble and make three or four momentum-changing plays.

5 Keep a body on Mike Kurtz and not allow him to get the garbage points


Sitterud and Granucci’s keys to an Woodcreek win:

1 "Do what they do" and play their game. They do it better than anyone else in the area, using their depth to their advantage. 

2 Derek Anganes and Nik Stathopolus need to continue to bring energy and effort and battle Oakmont’s bigs.

3 Ryan Sondhi and Devin Murphy need to create an up-tempo pace and apply ball pressure on Mobley.

4 Milat & Milani have the will to win and need to impose it on their teammates and continue to be great leaders.

5 Kurtz needs to stay out of foul trouble and get quality touches inside the paint.


Game day information

Sac-Joaquin Section boys basketball D-II finals

Oakmont vs. Woodcreek

4:30 p.m. today at Arco Arena
Admission: $17 for adults, $8 for students
Parking: $12 for cars, $30 for buses


For those unable to get out to the arena, I will be blogging on this Web site from courtside to keep you apprised of what is happening on the floor at Arco Arena.