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Rocklin tops Pleasant Valley; plays at St. Francis Thursday

Thunder haven’t lost two games in a row since 2005
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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The Thunder boys beat Pleasant Valley High of Chico 73-44 on Tuesday night in the first round of the Northern California regional basketball tournament. Rocklin High is a No. 10 seed while host Pleasant Valley was No. 7. Rocklin (22-9) will now play at No. 2 St. Francis (27-3) at 7 p.m. Thursday as this single-elimination tournament continues. “We are just excited about the opportunity to go down there and it’s a real challenge for our kids,” Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said. Rocklin lost to Sierra Foothill League rival Woodcreek, 71-64, in the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals at Arco Arena on March 4. Because of a change to the format this season, the losers of the section semifinal games still advanced to NorCals. “We haven’t lost two games in a row all year and that was something we have stressed to the kids,” Taylor said. “And I thought the kids practiced really well (on Monday) and they had a great attitude.” Actually Rocklin hasn’t lost two games in a row since Dec. 16-17 of 2005 when Laguna Creek and Franklin of Elk Grove beat the Thunder in consecutive games. St. Francis had a bye in the first round of the NorCal tournament and went 14-0 in the West Catholic League. It was upset by Archbishop Mitty, 56-50, in Friday’s Central Coast Section title game. Rocklin beat St. Francis 70-65 last March to advance to the state championship game. St. Francis returns lots of players from that team but Shawn Grant, who collected 24 points and nine boards in the loss to Rocklin, has graduated. Rocklin senior guard Cody Kale, the Thunder’s leading scorer this season, scored 10 points in that victory a year ago at Arco Arena. Rocklin graduates Brendan Lane (17 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks), Pat Stover (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Anthony Romero (11 points) were strong for the Thunder in that game. St. Francis was the No.1 seed in the NorCal tournament last year while Rocklin was No. 2. The Thunder had no trouble with Pleasant Valley (19-11) on Tuesday night. Rocklin led 23-5 after one quarter and 45-13 at the half. The starters got lots of rest for the Thunder and each player on the roster played in the game. “We played really, really well,” Taylor said. “We came out with a lot of energy on defense and our pressure really set the tone for the whole game. And we came out and shot really well early. (Senior) Jackson Cummings had his best offensive game of the year with 12 points and he played less than half the game.” Rocklin senior center Alika Lemon led the way with 15 points while Kale and senior Tony Williams both scored 11 in limited minutes. “Alika really sparked us – his energy and rebounding set the tone,” Taylor said. Taylor credited Cummings and senior Justin Soria as leading Rocklin’s defensive effort. Cummings played a big role in shutting down Pleasant Valley’s top scorer Bren Haley, holding him to just six points. Pleasant Valley lost to Chico 54-53 in Saturday night’s Northern Section title game.