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Thunder boys fall to St. Francis 75-72

Season ends in second round of NorCals for Rocklin
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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The season came to a close for Rocklin High’s boys basketball team on Thursday night. The Thunder, seeded No. 10 in the Northern California regional tournament, were beaten 75-72 at the home of No. 2 St. Francis in Mt. View in a second-round game. Rocklin finished its season with a record of 22-10 while St. Francis (28-3) will host Oakmont (24-7) in the NorCal semifinals on Saturday. The winner of that game will play the winner of Saturday’s battle between No. 4 Woodcreek and No. 1 Arch Bishop Mitty. Then it’s the state championship game. Woodcreek and Oakmont are in the Sierra Foothill League along with Rocklin. Rocklin led St. Francis 49-48 after three quarters but lost the final quarter 27-23. Rocklin hung around the entire fourth quarter but St. Francis made its last six free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory. Rocklin made 14-of-24 free throws for the game while St. Francis converted 18-of-23. “(St. Francis) lost in their section finals (56-50) and we thought that if we could score in the 70s that we would have a really good chance to win and we did that,” Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said. “I thought our guys played with a lot of heart and a lot of determination and we just fell a tiny bit short.” Rocklin, down 75-72, got the ball back with less than one second left in the game but the Thunder couldn’t get a shot off. St. Francis led by four points after one quarter but Rocklin led 33-31 at the half. The game was back-in-forth throughout. “They have similar personnel to us, one bigger guy and then all guards,” Taylor said. One of those guards is senior Tyler Johnson and he led his team with 20 points. Johnson will play at Fresno State on a full-ride scholarship. Thunder senior Tony Williams led the way with 27 points while senior teammate Justin Soria had 18. Senior Cody Kale finished with 14 points while Alika Lemon batted foul trouble in the first half and scored all eight of his points in the second half. “They doubled (Kale) every time he got the ball and they tried to defend him very tough,” Taylor said. “He didn’t get as many shots as he normally would have gotten.” Rocklin beat St. Francis 70-65 in the NorCal finals last March, advancing to the state championship game for DII. Eisenhower beat the Thunder at Arco Arena to win the state title. Rocklin is 135-26 over the last five seasons and hasn’t lost two games in a row since Dec. 16-17, 2005. Six of the 26 losses have come in the playoffs. “We got to the final four of the section five years in a row and won two section championships (in that time),” said Taylor, the only coach Rocklin has ever had. “These five years with Sean Harris and then with Brendan Lane and . . . we have had a run of great kids and there will definitely be a changing of the guard in the program (as Rocklin started five seniors a lot this season). (Next year) younger players will be asked to step up and do great things. But the expectation level for our program has been set so high that I believe the kids believe that they can come in and do that.” Taylor pointed out that senior point guard Justin Soria took a major step up this year. “He was definitely a role player last year and he stared every game this year and played great,” Taylor said. “Some of the juniors like Kyle Peterson and Andre Jones and Taylor Shores will all be solid next year.”