Trevor Jones, seen in the section finals against West Valley, scored a team-high eight points in a 51-36 loss Thursday to Wood (Vacaville) in the NorCal Division IV quarterfinals. The sixth-seeded Wildcats led wire-to-wire, while the Panthers end their season with a school record 26 wins. (Photo courtesy of Eddie Saltzman)
Every time the U-Prep boys basketball team would cut into the Wood (Vacaville) lead on Thursday, the Wildcats had an answer. Whether it was a pressure turnover or a clutch bucket, the No. 6 seed in the NorCal Division IV playoffs countered everything the No. 3 Panthers (26-7) threw at them as Wood (25-7) advanced to the quarterfinals with a 51-36 win. All playoff coverage is presented by Redding Rancheria.
The Panthers got off to a slow start and trailed 19-5 at the end of the first period, but, as they did most of the night, fought back to close the gap. The only offense U-Prep could muster in the opening period was a Trevor Jones jumper and an old-fashioned 3-point play by sophomore Kevin Cox. The 2-2-1 press of the Wildcats did the trick into bleeding the shot clock for the Panthers, keeping the host from setting up their offense for extended stretches.
“Their pressure was pretty good and took us out of our offense,” said senior Mark Stephens.
Yet, the Wildcats went cold in the second period, going nearly four minutes without a field goal. That allowed U-Prep to chip away at the 21-5 edge built by Wood at the 6:45 mark of the second quarter.
Jones scored off a back cut before Stephens hit a low-post basket. Jordan Miller and Logan Hawes each added points in the paint before Jones again hit from 10-feet. The only thing the Panthers didn’t do to help the cause was hit from the free throw line, going 0-for-3, including a missed front end of a one-and-one. U-Prep would head to the break down 25-15.
” They’re a very good team, but we could’ve competed a lot better than we did,” Stephens said.
The Panthers got a boost after the break as point Kaden Jones hit a right-wing triple, his first points of the night after 0-for-5 shooting the opening half. Down 29-20, U-Prep caught another break as Wood’s Jeremiah Jones picked up his fourth foul at the 3:30 mark of the third period and before he could be subbed out, picked up his fifth on a charge call that led to his dismissal and earned Wildcats’ coach Mark Wudel a technical foul.
Kaden Jones hit both free throws to cut the Wood lead to 29-24, but the Wildcats closed the period on a 8-2 run.
“It just wasn’t our night,” Stephens said.
The Panthers turned the ball over after the two free throws and Jhalen Grayer bured a 3-pointer followed by a Ricky Hamilton-Holland bucket on Wood’s next possession. A turnover a minute later led to an Angelo Harris coast-to-coast layup and Tyrell Grady hit one of three free throws after being fouled at the quarter buzzer and Wood’s five-point edge ballooned to 37-26 heading to the fourth.
“They played a really high-pressure defense full court and in the half court that I just don’t think we were prepared for,” coach Mark Stephens said. “They got some easy baskets and were very good around the rim. Every time they got the ball close, they were putting it in the hole.:
From there, the closest the Panthers would get would be 39-28 as coach Stephens brought in subs with about 2 minutes left to play. Yet, the Panthers went on an historic run for the school, winning the first section title and NorCal game in school history.
“Still, a good year. 26-7, the most wins by eight, so we set a new standard,” the coach said.
#6 Wood 51, #3 U-Prep 36
Wood – 19, 6, 12, 14 – 51
U-Prep – 5, 10, 9, 10 – 36
Wood (25-7) – Grayer 7, Grady 8, Harris 8, Jones 8, Hamilton-Holland 10, Seaman 10.
U-Prep (26-7) – Miller 4, Cox 4, Prettyman 4, M. Stephens 4, K. Jones 5, Hawes 7, T. Jones 8.
3-pointers – Wood: 2 Grayer, Grady; U-Prep: 2 K. Jones, Prettyman.
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