Section champs! Vanden boys claim first SJS title in 25 years
By Daily Republic Staff
SACRAMENTO — The 25-year wait is over.
Playing suffocating defense and using jets on offense, the top-seeded Vanden High boys basketball team captured its first Sac-Joaquin Section crown since 1995 by rolling past No. 2 Central Catholic of Modesto 57-41 in the Division III title game Friday at Golden 1 Center.
Vanden’s last section title was won in Division IV a quarter century ago, the seventh under legendary coach Jim Boyd, who died in 2019.
The Vikings (26-6) made things tough for the Raiders (24-8) from the start, leading 15-7 after the first quarter and 29-12 at the half.
“It’s rewarding, especially for my boys, they worked extremely hard, dealt with all the adversity,” Vanden coach Micheal Holloway said. “All that comes with being good individual players but also a great team. That’s what they showed today, especially the first half. We held a formidable opponent to 12 points.”
The Vikings trailed just twice – at 2-0 and 4-2 – before taking over the game.
“After that, we went on a run,” Holloway said. “We looked up and score was like 20-8. The kids did a really good job of running. We had to play with pace, we knew they wanted to slow it down and pack it in. We wanted to finish at the rim and not just shoot over the top.”
I’saac Montgomery and Takai Emerson-Hardee led the way with 14 points each, the latter adding nine rebounds, while Agjani Miller had 13. Leading scorer Teiano Hardee was held to seven points but contributed nine boards.
Arvind Sandhu and Dayton Magana each had 10 to lead Central Catholic, with Nic Sani adding nine. Coming into the game, the Raiders’ big three had been averaging a combined 50.4 points per game.
Holloway was especially concerned about the driving abilities of Magana and Sandhu coming into the contest.
“We wanted to limit their opportunities to see the basket and get to the rim,” the coach said. “Our secondary defense helping and helping the helper was excellent in the first half. No clean looks – all their looks were tough.”
Still, Central Catholic made a big push in the third quarter, outscoring Vanden, which seemingly has one bad period per game, 14-4 to make it 33-26 entering the fourth.
“They made a really good adjustment, it worked for a while,” Holloway said. “We got a little bit stagnant. We picked it up in the fourth quarter.”
Miller and Montgomery did most of the damage, each netting eight points in the period as the Vikings outscored the Raiders 24-15 in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Holloway, a former Viking himself, said there was extra meaning to the victory because of the passing of Boyd, who often gave him advice on how to rebuild the program.
“He set the tone with 614 (career) wins, seven section titles, a state title in 1986,” Holloway said. “I understand that. . . .My sole mission was to get the program back to the heights our community knows it at – a high level of basketball, really respecting the game, knowing the game is going to be there long after we’re gone.
“Let kids enjoy the moment, soak it in, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, something they’re going to remember 10, 20 years from now.”
The Vikings find out their seeding in the NorCal Regionals on Sunday and, unlike in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, they won’t be forced to play all their games on the road because of sanctions handed down by the SJS because of an incident in December.
“We did get confirmation that (penalty) does not transfer over to NorCals,” Holloway said.