Palmer, Johnson lead Folsom

By: Matt Long
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Folsom High's boys basketball season is either over or the Bulldogs are getting ready for a trip to Arco Arena on Thursday. The Bulldogs played Downey Tuesday night in the second round of the Division I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. The winner advances to the semifinals to play the Merced/Edison winner Thursday at Arco Arena. Behind a 26-point performance from Ben Palmer and an dominant all-around game from Tony Johnson, Folsom High's varsity boys basketball team defeated West, 68-57, on Friday night in the first round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs trailed only once in the game when West scored the game's first basket, but Folsom dominated throughout. Johnson controlled the point-guard position, both offensively and defensively, which set the tone from the start. Johnson made several steals and deflections and hustled everywhere on his way to scoring seven points in the first quarter. Tony dominated the point and that was huge, Folsom coach Mike Wall said. His pressure just wore them down. A 20-14 advantage in the first quarter got the team off on the right foot, something that didn't happen in losses last week to Monterey Trail and Sheldon. Wall went with a starting lineup of Johnson, Palmer, Kori Babineaux, Scott Moore and Paul Moeller and it worked. I don't know if it made a difference, but the team as a whole was just a lot more focused, Wall said. Everyone who came into the game was ready to play and I'm proud of how we adapted. Johnson's running mate, Palmer, scored half of his 26 points in the second quarter, when the Bulldogs opened up a significant lead. Palmer knocked down three 3-pointers, as Folsom extended its lead to 12-points by halftime, 41-29, its biggest lead of the game up to that point. A 10-4 run to start the third quarter, including four points from Moeller, increased Folsom's lead to 51-33 and West never challenged the rest of the way. Following Palmer's 26 points, Johnson ended the game with 15, while Moeller scored nine and Babineaux chipped in eight. Babineaux gave his team a lift in the first half, scoring six points, while Moeller added six in the second half which helped to ignite the team. We just brought more energy tonight and were more aggressive, Johnson said. We came out harder on defense and locked down on their guards. We got a lot of transition baskets and that gave us momentum. Ben also played well and finished well. We definitely brought it and left everything on the floor, Palmer said. Everyone contributed and we just played solid basketball. It was probably the hardest we played all year. Both Johnson and Palmer said that for the Bulldogs to advance, that same energy will be needed. If we come out like we did Friday, we've got a pretty strong chance, Palmer said. * At a Delta River League meeting last week, Johnson was voted as the league's Most Valuable Player, while Ben Palmer and Kori Babineaux were also chosen as all-league performers.