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Towns change, but players still hungry

Personally, it’s been a very interesting experience to watch Sac-Joaquin Section postseason events the past couple of weeks. One interesting aspect has been reacquainting myself with this area after more than 25 years, even longer in some cases.

I had not been to Folsom High School since the mid-1970s, at a time when the town and school were quite small. All that has changed, as I discovered when Folsom hosted the section wrestling tournament and saw community now numbers more than 50,000. Driving onto Folsom’s new campus – I’m told it covers 72 acres – it was amazing to see such awesome athletic facilities – certainly fitting of hosting a section championship event, and last summer, the prestigious Golden West Invitational track and field meet.

Driving to Galt on Tuesday to watch the Forest Lake Christian girls basketball team play Sacramento Waldorf in the Division V section semifinals was an eye-opener as well.



Again, I’d not been on the Galt campus since the 1970s, back when football coach Erv Hatzenbuhler was running the single-wing offense and basketball games were played in an old World War II blimp hangar. Well, Hatz is still at Galt and, I understand, he still runs the same offense. But there’s nothing old about the school’s gym, a spacious facility that, like Folsom’s, is a fitting venue for any championship event.

High school programs have obviously become more sophisticated in the past three decades. For one thing, playoffs in Northern California were much more limited in the ’70s. There was only one division – even then, the playoffs were limited to league champions only – and the ultimate goal was to get to the Northern California Regional Tournament of Champions at the Oakland Coliseum.




For those teams not able to reach the playoffs, in this area at least, playing in the postseason meant going to NIT-type events such as the Lassen Invitational Tournament in Susanville or the Gridley Tournament of Champions.

So much for reminiscing. Even with all the changes, there is one constant – the kids. They still play hard, the competition is exciting and it’s exciting to watch.

You couldn’t ask for more than the Division IV championship game at noon today between rivals Bear River and Colfax. They split two regular season games and finished as Pioneer Valley League co-champions. It should be an incredible game.

Another great example was Forest Lake Christian-Sacramento Waldorf, a rematch between Central Valley Christian League rivals who played for the section title last year. Forest Lake Christian trailed by as many as 10 points at one time in the third quarter, but the Falcons stepped up to the challenge and rallied for a 78-73 overtime win.

You’re not going to see many games that are better. Nor are you going to see many pure shooters better than Waldorf senior guard Jake Kelly, who knocked down eight 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 34 points in this game.

“We’ve locked horns 11 times now and she’s been the focus of our defensive game plan each time,” Forest Lake Christian coach Steve Kellar said. “She’s as good as we’ve seen. We’ve seen Jacki Gemelos, but that was in foundation games, so I don’t count that. And we did see the Paris twins, but they’re post players, so I don’t count that. In terms of trying to defend someone on the perimeter, she’s as good as they come.”

The Paris twins, Courtney and Ashley, formerly played at Modesto Christian and now play for the Oklahoma Sooners.

Gemelos is headed to USC, though her illustrious four-year run at St. Mary’s in Stockton came to an unfortunate end Wednesday night when she went down with a knee injury in the second quarter of the Division III semifinals against El Camino at Galt. El Camino went on to win 69-54 on a night when Gemelos scored nine points, well below her season average of 38 per game. She also fell seven points short of the Sac-Joaquin Section girls career playoff individual scoring record of 371 set by Nevada Union’s Kellie Cook in 16 games from 1988 to 1991.

So, 15 years later, the record still stands. But the memories don’t go away. The performances of players like Jake Kelly, Jacki Gemelos and Kellie Cook will always be special – and will continue to provide a benchmark for players in the future.

ooo

To contact Dave Price, e-mail him via davidp@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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