Bruins’ tough playoff path starts at home

Boys Basketball Playoffs
By: Journal Sports Staff
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Bear River High wrapped up its first league title since 2003 last week. The Bruins will look to add another chapter to the history books as they begin the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs tonight. Bear River is going after the first section title in program history, but the road to the section crown is far from smooth in the Div. IV bracket. The third-seeded Bruins (20-7) open against Linden. Looming in the second round is UCLA-bound Nelson Reeves and Modesto Christian. Upstart Vista Del Lago is the No. 2 seed and Christian Brothers — which knocked Bear River out of the playoffs last season — is the top seed. The Bruins are armed with some significant firepower of their own. Senior Patrick Scott is seventh in the section in scoring, putting up 25.7 points per game. Senior Garrett Barbic is a 3-point specialist and junior point guard Johnny Jewett has become a dangerous offensive weapon as well. In the post, senior Tanner Mathias has emerged as a tough defender and tenacious rebounder. Junior Jordan Beskeen does a little bit of everything for Bear River. Tonight’s foe Linden (11-9) could be dangerous. The Lions won five games in a row to wrap up Mother Lode League play. They’re led by junior center Aaron Judge, who averages just over 15 points per game. Senior guard Manny Perez is second on the team in scoring with 10 points per game. Anticipation is already buildling for a potential second-round showdown with section power Modesto Christian on Friday. The Crusaders — the defending Division IV champions — were given the No. 6 seed despite going 18-8 and coasting through the Trans Valley League at 10-0. No. 12 Colfax at No. 5 Central Catholic — The Falcons are looking to make their fourth straight appearance at Arco Arena in the section title game. They’ll play the unusual role of underdog in this year’s quest. Colfax (16-10) will travel to Modesto to take on the talented Raiders (22-5), who tied for first place in the Western League. Central Catholic features a pair of quality big men in 6-6 junior Dan Hulst and 6-4 junior Dusty Killian. Guards Alex Chase and Ken Mashinchi are also dangerous. The Falcons counter with remarkable balance. Senior guard Jeff Divine averages just under 12 points a game to lead the way. Senior Ethan Guiles is capable of putting up big numbers in the post and juniors Sean Jergo and Justin Witt care sharp shooters. The game could be Colfax coach Ron Pucci’s finale. He announced he will retire at the end of the season after 19 years on the Falcons’ sideline. Division II No. 15 El Camino at No. 2 Del Oro — The Golden Eagles (20-7) enjoy home court advantage and a rematch against the team they beat at the Common Good Classic last month. El Camino (11-16) finished 5-5 in the Capital Athletic League. Senior guard Juwann Springfield is the Eagles’ leader, pouring in more than 18 points per game. Junior Spencer Butterfield led Del Oro’s charge to a second-place finish in the Sierra Foothill League at 8-4. Sophomore Aaron Hendricks adds significant scoring punch. Senior Brian Rowe is the team’s floor leader. Del Oro dropped El Camino 83-76 at the Common Good Classic. Division V No. 14 Sacramento Adventist at No. 3 Forest Lake — The Falcons’ road to repeating as section champions begins at home. The Capitals (8-13) have lost five in a row and finished 3-11 in the Sacramento Metro Athletic League. Forest Lake is led by junior Josh Ritchart, who is sixth in the section in scoring at 26.5 points per game. Seniors Johnny Umamoto and Matt Masterson are also key components in the Falcons’ attack. No. 16 Foresthill at No. 1 Bradshaw Christian — The Wildfires’ second straight trip to the playoffs takes them to Sacramento to face the Sacramento Metro Athletic League champion. The Pride (20-6) are led by junior guard Orion Kidd, who averages over 19 points per game. Foresthill (10-14) will look for big games from seniors Pliny Murphy and Sean O’Hagen along with juniors Shane Gray and Travis Greene.