With 3 minutes and 55 seconds remaining in the game, senior guard James Brindley forced a Davis guard to lose his dribble around half court with the ball squirting toward the sideline. In a flash Brindley was on the ground by way of a full, layout dive toward the ball, stopping only as he crashed into the bottom row of the bleachers.
Nevada Union was up by 21 points at the time – that’s how dialed in the Nevada Union boys basketball team was to winning its first playoff game in five years.
With a convincing 74-57 win Friday night against No. 15 Davis at Ali Gymnasium in the first round of the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, the No. 2 Miners gave head coach Jeff Dellis his first playoff win as Nevada Union head coach.
“What a great team effort,” Dellis said afterward. “I’m excited for the kids and the program.”
The win came before an absolutely packed house, with fans waiting in line outside the gym to get in until the final three minutes of the second quarter, with a rowdy Nevada Union student section energizing the crowd.
Both teams traded baskets to open the first quarter, with the Miners bragging of just a 12-10 lead with 2:41 remaining in the first. Senior guard Kevin Nelson took charge, however, nailing back-to-back 3-pointers, followed by a tough basket in the lane.
The Miners led 22-12 at the end of the first quarter.
Nevada Union maintained close to a double-digit lead throughout the second quarter, with senior Travis Edwards taking two charges and coming up with two steals in a span of seven offensive possessions for Davis. The Blue Devils trailed 33-25 after one half.
Just under a minute into the second half, Calvin Miller pulled Davis to within 35-29 on the team’s first 3-pointer of the game. But Nevada Union’s Jared Vogel responded with a 3-pointer two possessions later, with senior standout Tyler Smith following suit with one of his own.
Two Nelson free throws later and the Miners began to roll.
“I think we started out a little slow because of some nerves with the big crowd, but once we started stroking our shots it became contagious,” said Nelson, who, along with teammate David Weberg, was sporting a cornroll look in his hair. “If you looked in the crowd, there wasn’t an empty seat anywhere.”
With 6:03 remaining in the game, the Blue Devils began to unravel, trailing 57-39 when Chris Lunden whistled for a technical foul. Later that quarter, David Allison was ejected after a flagrant foul on Smith. Apollo Joulios picked up a technical as well.
The Blue Devils’ strength came in their post game with four players standing 6-foot-5 or taller, but their guards had repeated trouble against the Miners’ harassing ball pressure. Nevada Union forced Davis into seven turnovers in just the first quarter, with a total of 17 in the game.
Recently crowned 3-time Metro League Most Valuable Player – Smith – turned in a game-high 23 points, with nine rebounds.
“Tyler is someone you almost forget about because he’s so smooth,” Dellis said, with Davis coach Dan Gonzalez calling Smith “awesome.”
Nelson finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, with Vogel and Brindley adding 10 and 8, respectively.
Edwards turned in another stellar night defensively with five steals, with Brindley causing his usual defensive havoc. Nelson, Smith and Vogel did their share as well to disrupt the Blue Devil offensive from functioning.
“The tempo of the game never looked like it was in our favor,” Gonzalez concluded.
“I think Nevada Union is a legit team, mainly because they have several shooters. Tyler is awesome, but their other guards certainly compliment him. And having good ballhandlers is really important in the playoffs.”
The No. 2 Miners (22-7) travel to the University of Pacific for a second-round game Tuesday against No. 10 Grace Davis.
To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4244.
Five Jr. Miner football players and four Jr. Miner cheerleaders have all been selected to participate in the Sacramento (SYF) Youth Shrine Bowl, which benefits Shriners Hospitals for Children.
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