Gutsy Skins: Calaveras top Bruins, advance to Final Four

By Bill Rozak / The Union Democrat

#[set returnText = $REPLACE(returnText, "", "")]# When Calaveras Redskin senior Gino Alberts took flight late in the fourth quarter Friday night, few thought he would get high enough to catch a long pass from teammate Tyler Cook.

While the basketball was sailing through the air, a 'too high' was audible from the hostile Bear River Bruin fan base.

"When Tyler first threw it I said ... well I can't say what I said," said Redskin head coach Kraig Clifton, thinking the ball was thrown beyond Albert's reach.

But the airborne 6-5 Alberts, at maximum extension, completed the Play of the Year for the Redskins.

Well above the rim, Alberts snared with his fingertips a near-perfect

30-foot alley-oop pass from Cook and slammed down a thundering,

two-handed dunk sending the Mike Flock Gym crowd and Redskin bench into

frenzied celebration. The superlative flush put Calaveras ahead of Bear

River 50-48 with 1:37 left.

"I got the pass from Chris (Simpson) our point guard and Gino

cuts," said Cook. "Usually the last defender in the 2-3 zone steps up a

little bit and when I saw him coming up, I saw Gino cut. I threw it

right above the rim right where he likes it. He caught it, dunked it.

It was amazing. I mean he jumped, his elbows were above the rim and he

just threw it down. Our crowd went nuts - it was awesome.

"The play before that, we were supposed to do it," said Alberts.

"But if you don't get it, you come back out and shoot a 3. It was there

the first time and Cook didn't want to risk it - because it is a pretty

risky pass, especially at that time of the game. We came back down the

next time and called a timeout. I went over to Tyler and said, 'throw

it dude, it's there.' "

"During the timeout, I said 'we're gonna run "Crack" again and if

we get that screen, throw it,' " said Clifton. "The end result was just

one awesome athletic, big-time play."

With how well the Redskins executed "Crack," guess how many times they've attempted it this season.

The Redskins have played 27 games and have scored over 500 points, they probably went to the well maybe 10-15 times right?

If the guess was more than once, it's wrong.

That's right - one time.

These Redskins, with their season and playoff lives hanging in the

balance, a trip to the Final Four awaiting the winner, courageously

executed in their most pressure-packed situation to date.

"You know what, we've never done it," said Cook. "We've done it in

practice and there's an option for it, but that's not the No. 1 option."

"It's a play we've worked on all year," said Clifton. "It's the

first time we've ran it. At practice we were thinking, 'this might be

the best play we have.' "

With their gutsy execution at crunch time, the No. 5-ranked

Redskins, after several nervous moments late, defeated the No. 13

Bruins 52-49 in the quarterfinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division

IV Championships and are headed to the Final Four. They will face top-

seed Modesto Christian on Wednesday at Tokay High School at 7:30 p.m.

"It's exciting heading into the Final Four," said Alberts, who

scored a game-high 19 points, 16 in the second half. "We need to come

in determined, focused and know what we have to do. It's always fun and

exciting, but we know what we have to do."

This game story would have read much different if it weren't for another pair of Redskins, Szac Franklin and Tyler Phillips.

Franklin's contributions were not as high-profile as Alberts, but

in his coach's eyes, they wouldn't have had a chance to win without him.

Franklin's charge was to slow down Bear River's dynamic 6-5 Justin

Beskeen. Beskeen was pretty much unstoppable through the first three

quarters and had 19 points and eight rebounds.

"I think the key for us was we switched up the way we were

defending and Szac Franklin stopped their leading scorer," said

Clifton. "He shut him down in the fourth quarter to zero points. And

that was absolutely the changing of the game - absolutely."

Beskeen grabbed just two rebounds in the final frame as Franklin stayed with every move and made every shot difficult.

The final shining defensive play came with seven seconds left. With

the Redskins clinging to a 51-49 lead, Bear River guard Jonny Cassar

drove into the lane and tried to toss in an off-balance layup.

Phillips would have none of it. He swatted the shot and the ball deflected out of bounds off Cassar with 6.4 seconds left.

"I was guarding No. 5 and he's not their best shooter," said

Phillips. "I was in major help side. We knew they were gonna go inside

because they went inside the whole game. So I stood in the middle of

the key and he pivoted around and tried to throw up some kind of shot

and it was right in front of my face. I was in the right place at the

right time."

Early in the contest, there was a lid on the basket for the

Redskins. Their first two points came on an aggressive drive to the

hoop by point guard Chris Simpson five minutes into the game.

Bear River led 8-4 after the first period.

Both teams had better flow on the offensive end in the second

quarter as the Bruins extended their lead to 25-19 at halftime.

"The first half we started off real sluggish," said Clifton. "We

were getting all the shots we wanted we just couldn't make anything.

Our nerves were going and we were a little passive."

Calaveras took its first lead 90 seconds into the second half. Cook

banked home a 10-footer for a 26-25 advantage. 13 seconds later, the

Redskins were behind again.

Calaveras didn't regain the lead until Alberts buried a 26-footer to make it 43-41 with 5:05 left.

The lead changed hands four more times until Cook and Alberts connected on the alley-oop.

"In the second half, we capitalized and did a good job of blocking

people out," said Alberts. "In the first half you're not ready for

'this could be it.' In the second half, it kind of hits you in the face

that if we lose, this is it for us. So we kinda stepped up and

controlled the game in the second half."

The Redskins, after hitting four treys in the first half, hit seven

in the second. Cook and Alberts each had four, Simpson two and Wyatt

Madrid one.

"One of our strengths is our multiple 3-point shooters," said

Clifton. "Typically we shoot it better than that. But to sum it up - it

was high school basketball. Sometimes when it's at its worst, it's at

its best at the same time. That last minute and a half was just ... was

beautiful in an ugly way. It's a lot to put on teenagers."

For Calaveras (19-8), Alberts grabbed a team-high seven rebounds,

Cook scored 15 points and Simpson added eight points and also dished a

game-high six assists.

"It's been our goal all along to get into the Final Four," said

Phillips. "Hopefully we can move past powerhouse Modesto Christian and

upset them. It'll be a great game."

11867955
The Union Democrat
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