A three-for-18 shooting performance from three-point range at Golden 1 Center on Saturday night proved to be a hurdle too high to overcome for Santa Ana Foothill in falling to Elk Grove 62-56 in the CIF Division II boys’ basketball state championship game.
The Knights (31-4) never stopped battling until the final buzzer sounded, hustling for every loose ball, competing for every point, but Elk Grove, the school that produced the great Bill Cartwright in the 1970s, had too much firepower.
Standout guard Ameere Britton scored 20 points before fouling out. Karlos Zepeda added 17 points and Jordan Hess had 14. Elk Grove made eight threes and responded in the fourth quarter when Foothill made a comeback bid.
Cruz Billings finished with 23 points for Foothill, which was making its first state final appearance.
“I thought we had an amazing season,” coach Yousof Etemadi said. “A lot of people doubted us the whole year. This is the biggest stage and I’m very proud of them. We play hard every night.”
Said Billings: “We competed every game. We kept our foot on the gas and kept going.”
As the final buzzer sounded, ending the Division IV championship game, 6-foot-8 Jax Leatherwood, a free-spirited personality and quarterback, took the basketball and dunked it. That’s the way he has concluded every San Diego Scripps Ranch victory for the last three games.
This was best ending yet, a 46-37 victory over Napa Justin-Siena that helped Scripps Ranch (26-11) become the fourth team in state history to win football and basketball titles in the same school year, joining Bellflower St. John Bosco, Gardena Serra and West Hills Chaminade.
“We just won two state titles in one year,” receiver and forward Dean Paley told cornerback and guard Lamont Wilkerson as they walked together to the postgame news conference.
Wilkerson was the best player on the court, finishing with 19 points. He scored 10 of his team’s first 14 points, showing off his speed and athleticism. Leatherwood, who passed for 52 touchdowns in the fall, acted like his left tackle protecting his blind side. He was the protector in the key, finishing with seven points, six rebounds and eight blocked shots.