The Mercury News Weekend
After huge win, Oakland takes aim at state title
Oakland standout Anthony Lacy, with a NorCal Division III championship medal draped around his neck, cautiously enjoyed his team's 77-61 win over Oakland Tech, finally getting past the rival that had defeated the Wildcats by seven combined points in three previous matchups this season.
Played at Laney College, the all-Oakland Section final filled the gymnasium's 2,500 capacity well beyond that total.
The matchup was the hottest ticket in town, with Oakland leaders such as mayor Sheng Thao, council member Noel Gallo and legendary Laney football coach John Beam — formerly of Skyline High — in attendance Tuesday night.
Also among the spectators were basketball coaches Lou Richie of Bishop O'Dowd and Frank Knight of Moreau Catholic — both Oakland guys — and Edgar Jackson, a graduate of Oakland's class of 2001 whose son, Eric, is a guard on this season's team.
“It was lit in here, and it was exciting to watch,” Jackson said. “We've had great teams over the years, and it's great to see the team make it to this part.”
The victory moved Oakland into the Division III state championship game against Buena-Ventura today at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
In the first half of the regional final, it was unclear if Oakland or its rival would advance.
But Oakland blew it open in the third quarter and never was threatened again. Lacy scored 17 points, Te'Shawn Gamble added 13 points, and senior guard Jimon Campbell impacted the game with hustle plays on both ends of the court. Ahmaree Muhammad had 23 points and ArDarius Gates finished with 14 for Tech.
Bragging rights against his team's rival restored, Lacy wants one more trophy to cap the season, a first state championship for Oakland.
“It feels great to finally get the win over Tech, but the job's not done,” the junior forward said. “We still got one more, and if we get that one more, that's the goal.”
Four hundred miles to the south, Buena coach Matthew Colton spent the night dissecting Oakland film after the public school from the Southern Section claimed its first regional championship in a triple-overtime 82-79 victory over Culver City.
“I have a hard time believing it wasn't one of the best high school basketball games of the year,” Colton said.
As he scouted Oakland, one player who caught his eye was senior guard Money Williams, who shares the same first name as his father. The elder Williams was named that after a relative who had struck it rich.
“He's clearly really athletic and tries to get to the basket, and you know, he will shoot the ball a little bit here and there,” Colton said.
Oakland's schedule, which included games against NorCal Division I semifinalist San Ramon Valley and Open Division regional finalist Modesto Christian, prepared the team for its long playoff run.
But Buena's schedule is no joke, either, boasting matchups against teams such as Oxnard, and an upset over No. 1 seed La Jolla Country Day on its way to the state title game as a No. 8 seed in the southern bracket.
Colton described his team as a balanced unit. Zane Carter leads Buena with 16.7 points per game and Daniel Ortiz averages 14.2. But, the coach added, under-the-radar sophomore Josh Ullegue could cause Oakland the most problems.
Back in Oakland, McClymonds boys basketball coach Barry Bell worked as an administrator during Tuesday's all-Oakland championship.
Bell played on the 2008 McClymonds team that won the Division I state title, and on the 2009 team that, until this year, was the last Oakland Section school to make a boys' final in any division.
He is proud of Oakland's achievement.
“It puts a spotlight back on Oakland,” Bell said.