Hillmen to take a shot at Sierra

Prep Boys Basketball Playoffs
By: Todd Mordhorst & Justin Lawson Journal Sports Staff
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Placer High has gone toe-to-toe with two of the top three teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs, so taking on a third doesn’t seem like such a daunting challenge.
“We played Foothill and Center two times each and we’ve been under double digits late in both games,” Placer coach Mark Lee said. “A couple more free throws, a couple more stops or a couple more shots go down and we win those games, so we feel confident we can go and compete against Sierra.”
The Hillmen will visit Sierra High of Manteca tonight, where they will be major underdogs against the team many expect to face Foothill in the section title game next month. Placer (16-10) finished tied for third in the Pioneer Valley League. Sierra (24-2) went undefeated in the Valley Oak League.
The Placer coaching staff got a good look at the Timberwolves last Friday night and Lee said big man Will Ward was impressive.
“He’s very good,” Lee said of the 6-5 center. “He’s big, athletic, he’s got soft hands. He’s got a good feel for the game and he plays excellent post defense.”
The Hillmen will also be tested on the perimeter. Junior guard Guillermo Nunez is explosive. In Friday’s win over Weston Ranch he scored 15 points during a 17-0 run by the T’Wolves. Guards Tim Thornton and Joseph Barry are also players to watch for Sierra.
Placer will look to senior Cody Riggs and junior Isaiah Pineiro for offense. Senior forward Alec Knox can provide some scoring punch while senior Michael Wiebelhaus and junior Peter Kean are tough defenders. Lee said the Hillmen would be without junior forward Michael McNamara, who is nursing an ankle injury.
Placer’s offense has been sharp of late. Lee said defense will be the difference tonight.
“We have to try to shut down the big kid in the paint and get to their shooters,” Lee said. “They have a nice inside game. Pineiro and Knox have to pound the glass, and then it’s a matter of executing and making shots.”
Division II: Del Oro at Lodi
The Sierra Foothill League champions were not thrilled with landing a No. 10 seed for the playoffs. But the Golden Eagles (19-8) will hit the road in the first round, taking on the tough Flames (20-6).
“Obviously we wanted a home game but we didn’t get it so we’re going to go on the road,” Del Oro coach Geoff Broyles said. “We know (Lodi) is a good team, we know they’re a very aggressive team, they press, they trap, they try and get turnovers. We know if we take care of the basketball we have a good chance to go down there and get a W, continue on in the playoffs. So we’ve just got to focus, have two good days of practice and go down there and play the way we’re capable of playing.”
Del Oro has leaned on its balanced scoring and hard-nosed defense all season. Seniors Jordan Broyles, Austin Soldano and Alan Kidwell can all put up big points. Point guard Rex Hime orchestrates the offense. Taylor Bergthold and Nick Lewis are key role players.
The Flames like to push the pace and they’ve got numerous offensive weapons. Benny Simi, Jordan Belasco and Colton Machado lead the attack.
“They’re a team that really tries to create a frenetic pace and tries to get you playing faster than you’re comfortable playing and try to create turnovers and get you out of your comfort zone,” Broyles said. “But we just need to maintain our composure, take care of the basketball, make sure we move the ball to the open guy, take great team shots and hopefully we’ll knock those shots down.”
“We like to play fast anyway and I think we got good preparation with the way Granite Bay plays. Granite Bay plays a real similar style to that so having just played them and game planning for that we feel comfortable with that.”
The winner of tonight’s game will likely take on No. 2 Sacramento on Friday at 7 p.m.

Division IV: Bear River at Sonora
The Bruins’ bus driver won’t need to look up directions for the long drive to Sonora. The Bear River volleyball and football teams traveled to Sonora for playoff games last fall and the boys basketball team will follow suit today.
Bear River (11-14 overall) is the No. 13 seed in Division IV. The Wildcats, seeded fourth, finished 8-6 in the Valley Oak League and 15-10 overall.
Senior center Tayler Thompson (6-8) leads a balanced Sonora offense with 10.2 points per game. Jack Gardella is a dangerous outside shooter and Ben Bates (6-6) is a solid third scorer for the Wildcats.
The Bruins may be underdogs, but they won’t likely be blown out by Sonora. Of their six Pioneer Valley League losses, none came by more than eight points.
Bear River junior Justin Beskeen is an explosive scorer. The 6-5 forward put up nearly 19 points per game in the regular season. The Bruins also have three steady seniors in Jonny Cassar (10 points per game), Brandon Wooner (9.5 ppg) and Trevor McGhee (8.4 ppg).

Division V: Forest Lake vs. Elliot Christian (at Tokay High)
The Falcons snagged the final Division V playoff spot and they’re hoping to make the most of it as the No. 12 seed.
Forest Lake (16-11) has some scoring punch with seniors John McDonald and Robert Bristol both averaging more than 16 points per game. Nathan Burnett and Brandon Camacho are also capable scorers.
The Eagles (23-4) ran through the Central California Athletic Alliance with a 10-0 record. Sophomore guard Adam Gotelli stars for Elliot, averaging 16 points per game. Jordan Tiner and Sam Gotelli are also key players for the Eagles, who have not lost since Dec. 13