Murrieta Mesa's Austin Bryant fouls Great Oak's Justin Sadler as he tries to take the ball to the basket during the first half on Thursday. |_Mandatory Photo Credit: Photo by Don Boomer/UT San Diego/Copyright 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC
TEMECULA Members of the Great Oak boys basketball team have spent many hours practicing and playing in their home gym.
They’ve no doubt seen the banners honoring current and former Wolfpack league champions in a variety of sports.
Next season, the honor will also be theirs.
Senior center Justin Sadler had 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots, and senior forward Patrick Sniff added 12 points and 15 rebounds, leading Great Oak to a convincing 72-51 victory over visiting Murrieta Mesa on Thursday night.
The Wolfpack (17-8, 8-2) captured their first Southwestern League title with the win.
“Coming back next year and seeing that banner will be a great feeling,” said the 6-foot-7 Sniff. “I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing it hanging in the gym.”
Before this season, Great Oak had never finished better than .500 in league play.
“We’ve come a long way since May,” said Wolfpack first-year coach Robert Hickey. “We kept improving. The mark of a good team is playing their best basketball at the end of the year, and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
Great Oak may have played its best game Thursday.
“Tonight, we got the ball to the post and it turned out well for us,” said Sadler, who is every bit of the 6-6, 235 pounds that he’s listed on the roster. “They tried to double team us, but that just left it open for our other guys to get to the hole even better.”
Mesa tried everything to get defensive stops. The smaller Rams pressed and double teamed the post.
The Wolfpack always had an answer.
“We spaced the floor, and we took down their press pretty easily,” Sadler said. “That left a lot of space for our guys to get the ball into us, and for us to get those easy layups.”
Mesa defeated Great Oak by three points two weeks ago.
“We beat them on the boards tonight,” Sniff said. “Last game, they probably outhustled us and outrebounded us, so our big thing was on the boards.”
The Wolfpack led by four points after one quarter, and 14 by intermission.
An 11-3 run to start the third quarter pushed Great Oak’s lead to 23. And all that was left after that was finding the best spot on the wall to place that banner.
“My teammates made it a whole lot easier for me,” said Great Oak sophomore guard Latrelle Franklin, who chipped in 14 points, seven assists and two steals. “They did their part, and I did my part, and we’re going to roll together.”
The Rams (16-11, 6-4) also made terrific strides this year. In only their third varsity season, they entered Thursday’s game with a chance to win the league.
But it was not meant to be.
“They played harder than us,” said Rams senior guard Khalil Sharpe, who scored a team-high 14 points. “We came out flat. Our defense was off, our shots were off.”