FAIRFIELD — One city team is guaranteed to reach the title game. Another is a favorite to get there.
When all is said and done after the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III boys basketball playoffs, Tuesday, either Vanden and Fairfield will be playing for the SJS title at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento against the winner of the No. 1 Modesto Christian-No. 4 Christian Brothers matchup, Friday night.
The No.1-seeded Vanden High girls, in the postseason for the 15th straight season, can reach the D-III title game if it gets past No. 4 Florin, getting the Vikings one step closer to their first-ever girls basketball section championship. Vanden made it to the SJS finals in 2011 and 2013. Should they win, the Vikings will face the winner of the No. 2 Modesto Christian-No. 3 Patterson game at 7:30 p.m. at Sleep Train Arena, Friday
Both the boys and girls games are at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, Tuesday, the girls scheduled to start at 4 p.m., the boys at 5:30 p.m.
The Vanden boys, the No. 2 seed, already have two wins over Fairfield, the No. 3 seed. The Vikings defeated the Falcons twice in Solano County Athletic Conference play, 59-58 at Fairfield and 75-70 on their home floor.
Fairfield is looking for its first-ever boys basketball section crown, while the Vikings have won SJS titles seven times, all under former coach Jim Boyd.
“The X’s and O’s for this game are pretty much out the window at this point. It’s going to come down to who makes the plays. The little things are going to matter.”
Fairfield coach Eddie Wilson’s comments were similar Holloway’s.
“The obvious thing is that we are going to have to play our best,” Wilson said. “We haven’t’ been our best against them. They executed better that us.
“We need to play to the best of our abilities. I think they will. It should be another great game.”
Playing on a regulation college court is something that both teams will need to adapt to, as high school floors are often a little smaller.
“It’s not familiar to both of us,” Wilson said. “The dynamics of the court are little different. The gym is a lot bigger, something that were not accustomed to. It’s not an advantage. A neutral court is supposed to neutralize any advantage.”
Added Holloway, “A lot of teams have a hard time (on a college court). It will be good for us. At this point, it’s about how bad the kids want it and how hard they are willing to play to get to the big place (Sleep Train). That’s what the kids dream of. And now they have that opportunity.”
Vanden girls coach Allison Johnson knows her team is up against a quality program.
“They are well coached, experienced,” Johnson said. “They were in the section finals in Division II last year. They are a real experienced group, all that good stuff.
“We’re going to have to defend and rebound, and make plays and make the opportunity.”
One thing Johnson isn’t too concerned about is playing in a college gym.
“This is our fifth year in a row playing at Cosumnes,” the coach said. “They play summer ball and play on big stages at NCAA certified events. The girls have been in that situation before. Some of the newness isn’t there for all of them.”
The second-seeded Rodriguez boys play their SJS Division I semifinal against No. 6 Merced at Sleep Train Arena at 4 p.m., Wednesday.
Coach Nate Rankin had a one-word answer when it came to finding a way to reach Saturday’s title game.
“Execution,” Rankin said. “We have to execute. It comes down to limiting turnovers, taking care of the ball.
Rankin doesn’t know too much about Merced, but he knows one thing.
“They looked to be a similar team to us,” the coach said. “It appears they are similar to us. Very athletic, an even paced team. The matchups are going to be interesting.”
As for playing in an NBA arena?
“First of all, the obvious thing is the kids have earned an opportunity to do this and play there,” Rankin said. “When there’s an opportunity to play on an NBA floor . . . the kids are thrilled about it. My thing about it is for them not to be overwhelmed. We have a job to do. It’s not over. We are humbled and grateful. The kids need to know that.”
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.