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Bulldogs rally to beat Trojans, 53-46

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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Friday’s Division I playoff quarterfinal showdown between Folsom and Oak Ridge was everything a game between two archrivals should be.

Two bitter rivals competing against each other in a hard-fought, intense game that was close throughout and had some drama at the end with Folsom pulling out a 53-46 victory.

With the game tied at 44, Mason Forbes, who missed his previous five free throws, knocked down a pair when it mattered most with 1:46 to play to put the Bulldogs in front for good, 46-44.

Cade Hoppe missed a three from the wing at the other end and Folsom’s Martis Johnson grabbed the rebound. Johnson then got the ball to Forbes on the baseline and the 6-8 big man followed his free throws with a dunk over two Trojans to put the Bulldogs up 48-44 with 1:22 to play.

Hoppe then hit a fade-away jumper to bring the deficit back to two points. In the game’s biggest moment, it was the smallest player on the court who game through. Folsom’s ElJay Gallegos drained his fifth three-pointer of the game and third of the quarter with 21.7 seconds remaining to put Folsom up by five. Spencer Duane missed on a drive to the basket at the other end, and Johnson finished the scoring with two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 53-46 win.

“It felt good to hit the shot, but I’m happy to win; that’s the biggest thing,” Gallegos said after the game.

“That’s my guy,” Folsom’s Jayce McCain said of Gallegos. “He’s done that a couple times for us this year.”

Forbes’ four points in crunch time were big, not only for the team, but also for Forbes, who had only scored two points in the first three quarters.

“It felt really good to get that dunk; that’s what I do,” Forbes said. “That gave us some energy and we were able to close it out.”

The loss was a bitter disappointment for the Trojans, who dominated the first quarter to a tune to 11-2 and led by as many as 12 points early in the second quarter.

“I fully believe we are as good as they are,” Oak Ridge coach Rich Sondhi said. “It was two heavyweights going toe-to-toe and neither team wanted to lose. They hit some big shots down the stretch and that was the difference in the game.”

Sondhi said before the game that his team had to keep Folsom from its transition game, limit their own turnovers, and keep Hoppe out of foul trouble. They did all three and still lost. Folsom had zero points in transition; the Trojans only had 13 turnovers and Hoppe finished with two fouls.

“We gave them everything they could have asked for,” Sondhi said. “It was a darn good basketball game.”

Oak Ridge did it with defense early. Not only did they keep Folsom from running, but their half-court zone held Folsom to only two points over the first 10 minutes of the game.

“Their length bothered us, and we didn’t use enough ball fakes,” McCain said. “We fought through it; that’s all that matters.”

Landon Woodwick led the Trojans with 13 points; 12 coming on four three-pointers. Spencer Duane and Koelbe DiMauro scored 10 points each, while Hoppe finished with eight.

“Landon came on for us,” Sondhi said. “His desire not wanting his senior season to end has motivated him. He stepped up for us.”

Gallegos led all scorers with 17 points. McCain finished with 12; Johnson added 10, and Forbes chipped in eight.

The Bulldogs will advance to the Division I semifinals and play top-seeded Sheldon on the road at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Trojans hope they get to continue their season in the Nor-Cal playoffs.