Boys Basketball: Rangers one game away from valley championship

Redwood won their first two playoff games and will travel to San Luis Obispo for the semi-final game.

By Jermaine Johnson II

@Jerm_10

FRESNO – After knocking off the No. 1 seed last Thursday, the Redwood Rangers moved one step closer to playing in the Division II valley title game. They defeated the Roosevelt Rough Riders 74-67 despite trailing at half-time.

The Rough Riders had a strong stretch in the second period to put them up by nine points. They got an energetic dunk which prompted Redwood to take a timeout. The Rangers cut the lead down to seven before being fouled on a 3-pointer at the end of the quarter. They knocked down the three free throws which cut their deficit to just four points. From there, both teams went back and forth as the Rangers were finally able to take the lead. They outscored Roosevelt by 11 points in the second half. Towards the end of the final period, the Rangers forced their opponent to foul to preserve time, but they knocked down some clutch free-throws to seal the win.

Offensively, the team was led by Malachi Aguilar and Nick Trevino who scored 27 points each. Defensively they were anchored by Conner Gilcrest who has valiantly protected the rim with an average of seven blocks a game in the playoffs.

“Malachi’s ability to score the basketball inside and out makes us really dangerous,” head coach Jason Black said. “He can handle the ball and also score. We have a lot of good pieces and he is the leader of the offensive attack.”

Despite being the top seed, Roosevelt lost their lone game of the playoffs after enjoying a first-round bye. While they had the night off, Redwood had a tough game at Monache where they narrowly pulled out the three-point victory. That win gave the team even more confidence and momentum than they already had. They’re currently on a nine-game winning streak which was preceded by a five-game stretch of losses in the middle of January. That win streak helped the team win the West Yosemite League with a 8-3 record.

“That losing streak taught us how to win,” Black said. “[Winning league] made us hungrier. Once we got that then we wanted more, and then we got that first playoff win.”

Black has seen instant success in his first season with the team. He spent the last eight seasons coaching Redwood’s varsity girls basketball team and he led them to the semi-finals in six of those years. The transition to the boys’ squad has been smooth as his coaching philosophy has stayed consistent with both teams, but he didn’t expect to have such success right away.

“What I do best is just letting them play and not trying to change anybody’s game. I evaluate what they do well and then play through it,” Black said.

The Rangers traveled to San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, Feb. 24 to determine who will move on to the valley title game. The final score was reached after press time but will be covered in next week’s issue of The Sun-Gazette Newspaper.

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