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Nevada Union draws first blood, but Woodcreek wins game

By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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GRASS VALLEY — James Leyva is turning into a varsity man.

His name was announced backward before the start of Wednesday night’s Sierra Foothill League game at Nevada Union. He was barked at by a teammate on defense. And finally, he bled.

But Leyva didn’t crack. The Woodcreek High School junior, a starter for the young Timberwolves, made three three-pointers, including a huge bucket just before the shot clock buzzed with 47 seconds remaining, to clinch a 58-50 victory.

“It was important because we started off pretty bad, so it felt good to beat them,” said Leyva, a gangly 6-foot-2, 176-pound mix of youth with a mouthful of braces and grizzled veteran with blood leaking from a cut next to his right eye.

Imagine that — a bleeding teenager talking about feeling good. But this one did feel good for Woodcreek (12-11 overall, 3-3 SFL), which lost its league opener to the Miners (8-15, 1-5) at home 75-68 in double overtime on Jan. 10.

Back then, the Timberwolves still were forcing shots and not moving the ball. On Wednesday night, they moved it plenty. Junior Nick Howe and sophomore Noah Blackwell had six assists apiece and combined for 21 points.

Leyva, with blood trickling down his right cheek, fed Blackwell for a three that gave Woodcreek a 47-39 lead. Senior shooter Tyler Milani made 5 of 9 three-point tries and led Woodcreek with 20 points and seven rebounds, his last bomb coming off a cross-court pass from Blackwell to give the Timberwolves their biggest lead at 53-39.

“I told the kids, ‘Someone finally bled on the court,’ ” Woodcreek coach Paul Hayes said. “That’s when I knew we won.”

The key to this victory was ball movement, according to Hayes. Woodcreek made 20 of 40 shots total and 10 of 18 from three-point range. Nevada Union was 19 for 52 (37 percent). When the Timberwolves weren’t casting three-pointers, they were whipping the ball around in their half-court offense. Even with the shot clock nearing zero, Leyva had a good look on his three-pointer.

“It was giant,” Hayes said. “Again, it was ball movement. It was squared up.”

Speaking of squared up, Woodcreek, Roseville, Del Oro and Rocklin are all 3-3 in the SFL. Roseville knocked off Granite Bay (5-1 SFL) 99-91 in overtime on Wednesday night, and Del Oro toppled Rocklin 68-61.

These guys have four games left to sort out everything before the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Let the fun continue.

Contact Bill Poindexter at billp@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at BillP_RsvPT.