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Bulldogs advance to section championship game

Hand Merced a 67-50 loss in semifinal
By: Matt Long
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Folsom High’s varsity boys’ basketball team advanced to their second straight Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game with a 67-50 win over Merced on Thursday. The Bulldogs (29-1) will face seventh-seeded Franklin (23-7) at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday at Arco Arena. The Wildcats defeated Golden Valley in the other semifinal. After a slow start which saw the Bulldogs fall behind 8-2 just over three minutes into the game, Folsom turned it on and never looked back. Folsom led 16-14 after the first quarter and 28-22 at halftime. A 22-10 scoring advantage in the third quarter put Folsom up 50-32 and finished off the Bears. Folsom led 34-27 midway through the quarter, but outscored Merced 16-5 over the last four minutes to open up an 18-point lead. Jordan Richards started an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer. After a Scott Moore blocked shot at the other end, Tony Johnson came down and drained a three. After a Merced missed shot, Moore grabbed the rebound and Johnson finished off the run with a driving layup that gave his team a comfortable 42-27 lead. “I was hoping that 3-pointer would go in,” Richards said. “I was sort of leaning after I shot it. I’m looking for my shot more now (compared to earlier in the season) and my teammates have confidence in me to make it and that makes taking it a lot easier. I know any offense I provided for the team is a bonus.” Folsom capped off the quarter with a pair of free throws from Patrick Akins and a buzzer-beating fadeaway baseline jumper by Johnson to increase the lead to 50-32. The game plan for the Bulldogs was to shut down the state’s second leading scorer, Allen Huddleston, and the Bulldogs were successful. Huddleston scored 26 points, but that was five points below his average and 12 of those points came from the free throw line. Thanks to excellent defense by Akins, Richards and Johnson, and secondary help from the other players on the court, Folsom held Huddleston to a poor shooting night from the field as he made only six-of-17 shots. “We did a great job on Allen,” Johnson said. “We always had people running at him and made it tough for him.” Coach Mike Wall echoed Johnson’s comments. “I told the guys that they have one really great scorer and we’ve got five pretty good players who can score,” Wall said. “Pat, Jordan and Tony did a good job on him and everyone else supported when he tried to penetrate. It was a team effort.” Not only did Folsom did a good job on Huddleston, but they also won the rebounding battle (39-32), even without senior starter Tucker Horwath, who missed the game after hurting his head in Folsom’s previous win over Enochs. Horwath said after the game that he’d be playing Saturday. “I wouldn’t miss that game for anything,” Horwath said. Johnson jokingly said the team plays better without Tucker, but then said that it took some guys stepping up to help fill the void. “Scott (Moore) and Brandon (Babineaux) did a good job,” Johnson said. “We can’t wait to have Tucker back, though, because he gives us a physical presence in the paint.” Johnson ended the game with 26 points, while Kori Babineaux added 20. Moore and Brandon Babineaux both pulled down 13 rebounds and Moore added three steals.