Timberwolves deliver emphatic message at Oakmont

Woodcreek back on top of SFL standings
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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It turns out that an angry Timberwolf is extremely dangerous. Coming off of two straight losses followed by a bye week during which its position among the area’s most elite teams was questioned by some, the Woodcreek High boys basketball issued a definitive statement Wednesday night at Oakmont. “We heard people talking about how we can’t win in their gym,” said Woodcreek guard Ryan Milat. “We saw the newspapers and the rankings doubting us, and we wanted to show them something.” Mission accomplished. Beginning with a 10-1 run to open the contest and continuing throughout the night, Oakmont’s senior night belonged to the Timberwolves. Woodcreek harried and harassed the now second-place Vikings in front of a raucous packed house on its way to a 70-45 victory. “Our guys were pissed off,” said Woodcreek coach Burnel Pinkerton. “The blogs and the papers knocked us way down in the rankings and people were talking. The really wanted to make a statement. We spent the week preparing for this as a do or die game. If we wanted to win the league, we needed to win this game.” Milat was a big part of the story, as he sacrificed his offensive game early and gave it up at the defensive end. The senior drew the assignment on Oakmont’s Alex Ford, and Milat and his teammates made it a difficult night for the Viking sharpshooter. Ford struggled to get a clean look at the basket and hit just one three-point shot. “What really hurt us is the way they shut down Alex,” said Oakmont coach Rick Campbell. “We couldn’t get him a good shot.” “You have to get up on him,” Milat said in discussing defending Ford. “As a shooter I know how much shooters hate to be bumped around. Our goal was to frustrate him early and make it a tough night for him.” Milat’s defense was key early, and in the end he found a way to get involved offensively as well. He entered the fourth period scoreless on the night, but with Oakmont hovering at 11 points down, he drove home the final nail, scoring 14 consecutive Woodcreek points on four 3-pointers and a deuce. They were his only 14 of the night, but they came at a most crucial time. The key to the first quarter was the somewhat surprising scoring of Woodcreek point guard Ryan Sondhi, who scored six quick points out of the chute as the Timberwolves built that early advantage. “Sondhi was so good,” Pinkerton said. “He had such a great start. We also got another great game out of our bench. Everyone who came in played well. (Devin) Murphy, (Jamie) Geyer, (John) Peska and (Derek) Anganes) all did some great things.” Sondhi’s play and their suffocating defense at the other end allowed the Timberwolves to open a 20-9 lead at the quarter that eventually extended out to 36-17 before a highlight-reel finish by forward J.T. Adenrele gave the Vikings hope on the way into the break, down by 16 points. Adenrele stole the ball at midcourt with 20 seconds remaining in the half, and took it down for a powerful slam dunk. He was fouled in the process and hit the free throw for a more conventional three-point play. The junior had couple of big moments, with a pair of throw-downs and four strong blocked shots, but overall, Oakmont was not able to control the paint in its customary fashion. Too many times in the first three quarters, the Vikings would get a stop only to see Woodcreek’s 6-foot-11 center Mike Kurtz get to the offensive glass for a put-back. The senior had a huge first half with 13 points at the offensive end, but he was also an impressive presence on the defensive end. Kurtz was matched up with Adenrele most of the night, which left Oakmont’s 6-8 center Tony Gill with a mismatch against a much smaller defender. When the Vikings did find Gill in the first half, the help defense was outstanding. Kurtz blocked three shots in the first half. “They played Kurtz off of Tony,” Campbell said. “That still left Tony looking around to find him once he beat his man.” Oakmont made a couple of runs, but the Vikings were never able to get over the hump. Nik Milani hit some big baskets in the third stanza and then came the Milat fourth. The Timberwolves also did a great job on Oakmont point guard Fred Mobley. The talented 6-3 senior was able to penetrate, but was often left with off-balanced shots that did not go down. He scored four points in the first quarter and did not get another point. “Our goal was to get it back down under 10 points,” Campbell said. “We just were never able to do that. You have to give it to Woodcreek. This is a great team and now they’ve gotten us three times.” The win gives Woodcreek (7-2 in the SFL, 19-5 overall) the inside track on the Sierra Foothill League title and a top-four seed in the Division II playoffs. “Oakmont is a great team,” Pinkerton said. “This (the margin of victory) was not what we expected tonight, but our guys came out and really played. I’m so proud of these guys.” For the Vikings (7-3, 17-6), now in second place in the SFL, the loss likely means a first-round postseason win will send them on the road for round two. Gill scored 14 of his 21 points in this game after intermission. The senior also grabbed 10 rebounds in his final regular season home game. Adenrele scored 11 points and pulled down eight boards for Oakmont. Kurtz was the Timberwolves’ high-point man with 19 points and he also snared 10 rebounds. Milat’s 14 lead three other Woodcreek scorers in double figures as Milani and Sondhi each scored 11 points. Oakmont has a bye Friday before heading out on the road for its final two regular season contests next week. Those two games are against the two teams at the bottom of the SFL standings – Roseville (0-10, 4-21) and Nevada Union (3-6, 11-11). Woodcreek is at Roseville Friday night, and then the Timberwolves will see Nevada Union and Granite Bay (4-5, 15-8) to close out their regular season next week.