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Folsom Bulldogs off to 2-0 start in Delta River League

Defeat Jesuit 75-59 on Friday night
By: Matt Long
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Folsom High’s varsity boys’ basketball team proved its 14-1 non-league record wasn’t a fluke, as they started off league play with a pair of wins against two of the tougher teams in the Delta River League. First the Bulldogs knocked off Sheldon on the road on Wednesday, 60-52, and then they held serve on their own court against Jesuit, defeating the Marauders on Friday, 75-59. At 2-0 in league with a loss to Sheldon and a pair of losses to Jesuit, the Bulldogs are in the driver’s seat, which is right where they want to be. “It’s big,” Folsom guard Patrick Akins said of his team’s 2-0 start. “These are two of the best teams we’ve beaten and now they’re chasing us.” Things don’t get easier for the Marauders, as they play host to Sheldon on Wednesday. While a loss to the Huskies would drop Jesuit to 0-3 in league play, a win would drop Sheldon two games behind the Bulldogs. Friday night’s win over Jesuit proved to be a coming out party of sorts for Akins, who scored a career-high 25 points. A bulk of those points came on transition layups, but he also scored from the perimeter and knocked down a couple of threes. “I was just in the right spots at the right times and I got a lot of layups,” Akins said. “I had a good shooting night. Tony did a great job running the floor; I think he had four or five of the assists on my layups.” Folsom coach Mike Wall was thrilled with the play of Akins. “I think his previous career high was 18,” Wall said. “He did a great job running the floor and finishing.” Folsom aggressively attacked Jesuit’s defense, beating them off the dribble throughout the night and driving to the basket. While Folsom made less than half of their free throw attempts, getting there more than 30 times was commendable. “I don’t know if it was the intensity of the game or the atmosphere with the big crowd, but we’ve got to do a better job of shooting free throws,” Wall said. “It’s a good thing the game wasn’t close. We better get used to the intensity, though, because all our games are against good teams, especially when the playoffs roll around.” Folsom led most of the way, trailing for the final time at 5-4 a little over three minutes into the game. Folsom was solid if not spectacular in the first half, but only led 30-27 late in the second quarter. The Bulldogs, however, outscored the Marauders 12-3 in the last two minutes of the half, including the final seven points, which effectively won them the game. Akins started the rally with a 3-pointer and Kori Babineaux scored in the paint for another bucket. Leading 35-30, Folsom scored seven straight points. Johnson scored on a pull-up jumper and Scott Moore put the ball through the hoop on a transition layup with 4.1 seconds to play. He failed to convert the 3-point play after missing the foul shot, but Babineaux grabbed the rebound and scored as the buzzer sounded. Jesuit was whistled for a foul, which gave Jordan Richards a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock. Richards made one and Folsom led 42-30 at the break. Jesuit came no closer than 11 points the rest of the game. Following Akins 25 points, Johnson added 20, while Babineaux added 11. “Our defensive effort was good,” Akins said. “We got to the ball quickly and rebounded and ran the floor well.” Wall added, “We got in transition, ran the floor well and attacked the rim,” Wall said. “Overall, it was a pretty solid night except for the free throw shooting.” Wall wasn’t sure how Wednesday’s game at Sheldon would play out, but he’s sure happy with the end result, a 60-52 Folsom win. Babineaux matched Sheldon’s offensive whiz Darius Nelson with 21 points, 14 coming in the third quarter when the Bulldogs outscored the Huskies 22-7 to turn a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead. Nelson scored 15 of his 21 points and all three of his NBA-range 3-pointers in the first half, but added only six points in the second half, none on threes and made only one-of-six free throw attempts in the final 65 seconds of the game. Babineaux was the difference, hitting a 3-pointer to start the third quarter, then scoring on a jump shot, a pair of transition layups, a put-back after grabbing an offensive rebound on the weak side and then finished the quarter with another three. “The brighter the lights the better he plays,” Wall said. “He didn’t force anything in the first half and when the play came to him in the second half, he was huge. He did a great job attacking the middle. He also played great defense with a handful of blocks that were emotional swings for us.” For his part, Babineaux wasn’t particularly looking to score more after just two points in the first half, he was just letting the game come to him. “I was just playing in the flow of the offense,” Babineaux said. “I became more comfortable with the pace of the game and my shots were falling.” Babineaux’s older brother, Brandon, only scored four points, but played well defensively, especially on Nelson. “Brandon played phenomenal defense in the second half on Darius,” Wall said. “He had no room and Brandon did a good job fighting throw all the screens.” “Coach just told me to stay on him and I did,” Brandon said. With Folsom down 25-19 at the break, Wall’s message to his team at halftime wasn’t offensive-minded, but defense. “Coach just said to play good defense and don’t let Nelson shoot any half-court threes,” Kori said. “Our focus was the key. We always get up for the big games.” “It’s big because now we’re going into Jesuit with a win,” Brandon said. “It’s nice to start Sheldon with a loss too.” Following Babineaux’s 21 points was Johnson, who scored 11, and Tucker Horwath, who added 10. Moore also contributed seven points, six coming in the fourth quarter. “We had to get these two games,” Wall said. “If we would have lost these two it would have set us way back.” Folsom plays host to Monterey Trail on Wednesday and travels to Pleasant Grove on Friday.