Boys NorCal Regionals: Dream season ends for Montgomery

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The last chapter in a great basketball season did not end as Montgomery’s boys wanted with a NorCal regional loss to Woodcreek at home Thursday.

Montgomery's Zack Templeton goes up for a shot between Woodcreek's Luke Summers, left, and John Peska, right, during the second round of the CIF State championships held at Montgomery High School, Mar. 10, 2011. Templeton scored 10 points. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Prepared well for a fellow league champion, Montgomery couldn’t match a strong streak of Woodcreek shooting and too often was a step behind the visitors from Roseville in the 58-52 defeat.

“It was a great season. We had a lot of wins,” said point guard Zack Templeton. “We just didn’t bring our A game.”

Along the way to a 28-4 season, Montgomery posted an undefeated North Bay League mark and captured the North Coast Section Division II title.

While reaching many goals, Viking players were confident they would win to play another day.

“That was a tough one,” said shooting guard Alec Kobre. “It’s hard. We can’t believe it’s over.”

Montgomery perhaps can take some pride that Woodcreek — champions of the Sierra Foothill League — needed to play its best much of the contest to hold off Montgomery.

“Montgomery really made us work. It was a great team effort,” said Woodcreek coach Paul Hayes.

The teams featured very similar approaches basketball fans can appreciate.

Both like to push the pace if they can get a good scoring chance, but are adept at moving the ball and working the clock for open shots. Confident in man-to-man defenses, both are quick and tough.

What separated Woodcreek on Thursday was a stronger defensive effort in the game’s middle stretches and lights out shooting.

“They’re physical and they’re very active. They really pursue the ball,” said Montgomery coach Tom Fitchie. “We were going to have to play our best game. That’s how it should be this time of year.”

Early going, both teams matched balanced play inside and out with their top scorers getting warmed up.

After the Wolverines’ athletic point guard Devin Murphy opened the second quarter with a jump shot to break a tie, Templeton followed with a 3-pointer. That would be Montgomery’s last lead at 16-15. The Vikings next point, on a Templeton free throw, was the final time the score was knotted.

Driving and dishing to shooters or flashing open for open shots, Murphy was a handful for Montgomery, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the first half.

That the Wolverines only led 27-22 at the half was testimony to tight defense on leading scorer John Peska, who still finished with 18 points.

Montgomery’s main answer was Kobre with four 3-pointers among his 20 on the night.

“Every time we hit a shot, they came back with one,” Kobre said. “We played neck and neck with them but just couldn’t get a lead.”

Opening the second half on a 5-0 run, Woodcreek stretched its lead to a dozen, the largest of the contest. Jamie Geyer did much of the damage with 8 of his 10 points coming in the quarter — all on midrange jumpers he didn’t miss.

Woodcreek needed to find another scorer because Montgomery defenders Karl Nimtz and Anthony Becker did fine work to limit Murphy and Peska.

Back off the bench after sitting with foul trouble, Montgomery center Ben Freeland scored 6 of his 12 points to help keep the Vikings close. Freeland’s presence on both ends of the court was missed during stretches when Woodcreek gained control.

Montgomery pulled within five and then four points in the fourth quarter. Woodcreek made key defensive stops and made free throws down the stretch to close out the win.

“We kept our head up. We knew we could come back,” Templeton said. “They were a good team.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.