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Young-again Woodcreek has talent, lacks experience

Timberwolves graduated eight seniors from NorCal Regional finalist
By: John Parker/Roseville Press Tribune Correspondent
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Paul Hayes hesitates to call this a rebuilding year, but the venerable Woodcreek High School boys basketball coach concedes he doesn’t have the luxury of returning experience he had the past two seasons.

“We don’t have kids with a significant amount of varsity playing time right now,” Hayes said. “But there’s enough talent here; if they learn to play with continued intensity and focus, we’ll compete.”

Since retaking the reins of the program before the 2009-10 season, Hayes, who previously coached the Woodcreek varsity boys from 1998-2004, has taken the Timberwolves to back-to-back CIF Northern California Regional finals, last season losing to eventual state-champion San Jose-Archbishop Mitty. The Timberwolves were 29-6 overall and 9-1 in the Sierra Foothill League to share the title with Granite Bay.

Whereas in the past Hayes had experience and familiarity — he prepared many of the same players from those NorCal runs as JV coach from 2007-09 — he’s now tasked with replacing eight departed seniors, including his top two scorers. Forward Tyler Milani should help bridge that gap, as starting last season as a sophomore could help him bring along younger players like freshman guard Noah Blackwell and sophomore guard Nick Howe, both of whom have seen significant early playing time.

“It’s just a whole new speed up here,” Milani said. “Varsity is a huge jump; they just have to get the feel of it.”

Another obstacle Woodcreek must overcome in its quest to get back to the regional playoffs is size. Though comparatively undersized, senior center Blake Bass (6 foot 3, 160 pounds) and senior forward Noah Bishop (6-4, 165) are active on the glass — a key in what Milani calls the team’s goal of stealing four points each quarter with offensive rebounds and putbacks.

Said Milani, “If we can do that, we can win games.”

WOODCREEK BOYS BASKETBALL

2010-11 records: 29-6 overall, 9-1 in the Sierra Foothill League (co-champion with Granite Bay), lost to Antelope 62-61 in Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals, lost to San Jose-Archbishop Mitty 67-44 in CIF Northern California Regional Division II final.
Upcoming games: Woodcreek opens the Rocklin Holiday Tournament against Ceres at 5 p.m. Thursday and plays at Antelope on Dec. 21.