Hot hands, cool heads put Granite Bay into Division I semifinals

Grizzlies advance to ARCO Arena for first time in school history
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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With each missed shot, each missed free throw, each technical foul and each ejection, the expressions grew more pained on the faces of McNair High School’s basketball team.

“They’re young,” Granite Bay senior Robert Duncan said, giving the north Stockton school a verbal pat on the back. “They’ll be back at it.”

The team that started three talented sophomores couldn’t keep up with No. 4 Granite Bay in one important area in these Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs: composure.

While fifth-seeded McNair (22-6) groused about foul calls, the host Grizzlies calmly made 16 of 18 free-throw attempts in the second half of a 77-60 victory Friday night that sends Granite Bay to the semifinals at ARCO Arena for the first time in school history.

“Our kids don’t panic, and that’s the best thing. We just stuck to our plan, our game,” Grizzlies coach Jason Sitterud said. “We have eight seniors and just rode them, so it’s just tremendous. We’re pretty excited.”

Granite Bay (26-3) avoided the three-point line and worked for shots around the basket. Duncan used various one-on-one moves to attack the hoop and scored a game-high 27 points on 12-of-21 shooting from the field.

He did most of it with two long pieces of tape covering two scratches that drew blood on the right side of his face near his nose and chin. Duncan spent a few minutes on the bench while a trainer tried to stop the leaks. Even his many schoolmates in “The Tribe” rooting section chuckled at the taped-up scoring machine.

“I didn’t care. I just wanted to win,” Duncan said. “I just wanted to make it to ARCO.”

Duncan returned to the game wearing a different jersey (No. 21) than his bloodied No. 33 and scored six points in a row, including a layup and a dunk on fast breaks, to help the Grizzlies take a 33-30 halftime lead.

Duncan also had two three-point plays in the fourth quarter, one of which came on a defensive rebound and coast-to-coast dribble for another layup.

“Just attack,” Duncan said. “We knew we were going to have to get inside. We knew they weren’t very defensive. We didn’t shoot threes a lot at all – five or six the whole game.”

Senior center Jon Davis muscled his way around the paint and scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half and was 11 for 12 overall from the line, including 5 for 6 on technical foul shots. And senior forward Kyle Howarth scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He also had eight of Granite Bay’s 15 rebounds in the first half and nine total.

“It was a physical, hard game, but we weathered it,” Howarth said. “We knew we had to board, so we boarded tough.”

The Grizzlies opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run, and the technicals started to mount – one each on three McNair players, one on head coach Matthew Morelli and another bench technical on two assistant coaches who went onto the court to grab Xavier Anders after the senior captain and Granite Bay senior Ryan Ramirez got a little physical during a battle for a tied-up ball in the fourth quarter. Both assistants were ejected.

The Grizzlies kept their cool and relegated any heat to their shooting hands.

“We know if one guy gets a little heated, we can calm him down,” Howarth said. “The T’s, they really hurt them because they couldn’t keep their composure, but we knew we didn’t want to throw the game like that so we kept our heads.”

Said Sitterud, “We’ve been there all year. We’re close. All the years of being together, they want it.”

Granite Bay was 9 for 13 from the floor in the third period and built a 57-43 advantage that grew to 74-53 on Davis’ last two free throws with 2:40 left in the game. The Grizzlies were 28 for 52 (54 percent) from the floor and 21 for 26 (81 percent) from the line overall.

Granite Bay will face Sheldon in a semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at ARCO Arena. The top-seeded Delta River League-champion Huskies (21-7) defeated Rodriguez of Fairfield 93-74 on Friday night. Jesuit and Franklin meet at 5:30 in the first semifinal. The championship game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. next Saturday, March 5, at ARCO.

“It’s just a dream come true. The school’s never done it before, so we wanted to be the first to break school history,” Howarth said. “It’s like the best feeling in the world to come out here in front of our huge crowd and put on a show with the atmosphere. It was just phenomenal.”

Impressive sophomore Thomas Wallace led McNair with 19 points, a game-high 11 rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Eric Duncan and junior Aivary Lewis each scored 13 points.

Granite Bay 77, McNair 60
McNair (60)

Anders 3-4 0-5 6, Lewis 3-8 5-5 13, Wallace 6-18 6-7 19, Flores 0-4 1-2 1, Duncan 4-13 5-8 13, Byrd 3-7 0-0 6, Warren 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 20-57 17-27 60.
Granite Bay (77)
Howarth 6-7 2-2 14, Keys 0-2 5-6 5, Davis 6-12 11-12 23, Brillington 2-5 0-0 4, Duncan 12-21 3-6 27, Arai 0-2 0-0 0, Ramirez 2-2 0-0 4, Eyen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 28-52 21-26 77.

McNair          18  12  13  17 – 60
Granite Bay   13  20  24  20 – 77

Three-point goals – McNair 3-19 (Lewis 2-4, Wallace 1-8, Duncan 0-3, Flores 0-2, Byrd 0-2), Granite Bay 0-5 (Duncan 0-3, Keys 0-1, Brillington 0-1). Total fouls – McNair 15, Granite Bay 21. Fouled out – Keys. Technical fouls – McNair bench 2, 5:03 fourth, 3:39 fourth, Anders, Duncan, Byrd, Ramirez. Rebounds – McNair 24 (Wallace 11), Granite Bay 28 (Howarth 9). Assists – McNair 4 (Wallace 3), Granite Bay 8 (Howarth, Keys, Duncan 2). Turnovers – McNair 16, Granite Bay 15.