It was a slow start for both teams in Friday’s tantalizing CIF Northern California Open Division first-round matchup between state-ranked Folsom and El Cerrito played at Vista Del Lago High in Folsom, but the Bulldogs got their Ford-powered engine cranked up in the second quarter and held off the Gauchos in the fourth quarter for a 78-75 victory.
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Folsom (28-4) advances to Tuesday’s semifinals where it will play state No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland at Laney College. The Bulldogs also should move up much higher than No. 20 in the overall State Top 20. El Cerrito wrapped up a 29-4 season and will drop from its No. 13 overall state ranking position.
Junior point guard Jordan Ford sparked Folsom to a 27-12 blitz in the second quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 41-22 lead at halftime. He didn’t have a basket until there was a little over three minutes left before the break, but had six free throws and then went on a personal 8-0 run with four buckets. Ford ended with a game-high 23 points.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game against O’Dowd,” Ford said. “We know they are a great team.”
Ford, who led the Bulldogs last year’s NorCal Division II title, received ample support from others. Senior Jared Wall, son of head coach Mike Wall, went on a personal 7-0 run of his own in the first quarter, and had 19 points. Ford’s backcourt runningmate, Tre Finch, who is also a junior, added 12 points, while senior Josiah DeGuara (one of several football players on the roster from Folsom’s 16-0 nationally ranked squad from last season) had 13.
“We just have to go one game at a time,” Finch said. “We practice Monday and right now that’s great.”
And was he worried as El Cerrito was getting back into the game late in the fourth quarter?
“Oh yeah,” he said. “We knew they’d come back in the second half.”
While the Gauchos started the second half on a 6-0 mini-run, they didn’t really turn on the screws until Tyrell Alcorn converted a three-point play midway in the fourth quarter that capped an 8-0 run and brought the score to 64-60.
A layup by Sayeed Pridgett as the clock got inside two minutes left then made it 71-68, but Folsom answered on a basket by Ford with 1:18 left, which forced El Cerrito to commit fouls to stop the clock.
The Gauchos still had one of those hopes for a miracle with 2.6 seconds left when Alcorn connected on a 3-pointer that made the score 78-75. After a timeout on the following in-bounds play, however, they could not foul Ford fast enough before the clock expired.
Alcorn fueled the fourth-quarter rally with 12 points, but only had two points when the period began. Pridgett, who like Alcorn ended an outstanding three-year career at the school, finished with 19 points.
El Cerrito’s future star, sophomore Tre Gray, also had a big outing. He looks like he’s about 12 years old, but can shoot the three and score on drives. Gray scored 16 points.