FAIRFIELD — The Vikings came to play. They left with a championship banner.
The Vanden High boys basketball team used its height and the hot shooting of DeMarre Walker to pick up a 75-70 win over Fairfield to win the outright Solano County Athletic Conference championship at a steamy Jim Boyd Gym, Tuesday.
It was the Vikings boys’ first league title since the 1996-97 campaign, Boyd’s final season as coach.
“I’m speechless and I’m not speechless often,” Vanden coach Micheal Holloway said. “I wouldn’t trade this team for anything in the world, period. We’ve got big-time players and they are only getting better, and we’re still young.”
Walker finished with a game-high 25 points, 11 of which came in the first quarter to keep the Vikings within 19-18 after eight minutes.
Along with Walker, the Vikings basically won the game on the glass with their big men, outrebounding the Falcons 33-29, many of which came on the offensive end for second-chance points.
The 6-foot-7 Jihad Woods led Vanden with 10 rebounds, while fellow 6-7 postman Jansen Smith added eight.
Falcons coach Eddie Wilson didn’t like the fact that his team gave up rebounds on their defensive end of the floor.
“We had trouble staying in front of Walker, we couldn’t sniff an offensive rebound and they got multiple shots (off offensive rebounds),” Wilson said. “It’s just a bad matchup for us (against Vanden’s big men).”
The Vikings opened a 41-31 lead at the break, thanks in part to Woods, who scored 10 points in the period, including two alley-oop dunks. Woods finished with 19 points.
“(Walker really came through), especially at the beginning,” Holloway said. “And Jihad Woods. I asked him (Monday) to play like a man and he did. Jihad really took control early. That’s the one fear with everybody. If he figures it out, there’s nobody that can match up with him because he is that forceful and that graceful.”
The Vikings (17-10, 9-1 SCAC) led by as many as 19 points in the third quarter, but the Falcons (22-5, 8-2) scored eight of the last 10 points in the period to cut the lead to 60-48 with eight minutes to play.
Fairfield kept the momentum going in the final quarter, scoring 15 of the first 20 points to cut the deficit to two points (65-63) with 3 minutes, 26 seconds to play.
But the Vikings responded with eight of the next nine points for a 73-64 advanatage.
After Vanden’s Thomas Avent made a couple of foul shots, two late 3-pointers by Fairfield’s Sean Gray made the score look respectable at the end.
The Vanden girls defeated Fairfield 62-9 earlier, giving the Vikings both the boys and girls SCAC titles, something that didn’t escape the attention of Holloway.
“The girls and the boys haven’t won (a league title) together since 1996,” the coach said. “This means a lot because a year ago, I didn’t know where I was going to be when it came to coaching.
“The kids fought for me, the parents fought for me and I’m just thankful for the school and the district to give me the opportunity to bring the boys basketball program to what it was that we’ve known for the first 34 years of this school.”
DeMoriaye Hart-Spikes led the Falcons with 20 points, while Gray finished with 14. Maurice Trotter chipped in 12 for the Falcons.
Tony Terry III added 15 points for the Vikings, with Avent finishing with eight.
The Vikings and Falcons will find out who they open with when the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff brackets are released, Wednesday.
Fairfield ran away with the JV game, defeating Vanden 64-37. Demond Lewis-Craig led the Falcons with 12 points, while Anthony Anchante led the Vikings with nine.
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.