The Jewish Community High School of the Bay did what few boys basketball teams were able to do this season — give Redding Christian a run for its money on its home court.
But in the end, the Wolves were defeated 49-47 on Saturday night in Shasta County in the semifinals of the Northern California Division VI tournament. The scrappy and determined team from San Francisco finished its season with a 21-7 record, while Redding Christian improved to 33-0 and earned a spot in the championship game on March 5.
JCHS was coming off a resounding 59-39 home win over Vacaville Christian three days earlier in the first round at Kezar Pavilion, but as the No. 3 seed, the Wolves had to travel 218 miles to Palo Cedro, a “suburb” of Redding, to play against the No. 2 seed. Though the 8 p.m. game was held in a bigger gym at nearby Foothill Hill, it was definitely a home game for the Lions, who dominated at home this season, winning all 15 home games by a combined average score of 66-40.
The visiting Wolves came out fast and put quite a scare into the home crowd on Saturday, charging out to leads of 14-10 after the first quarter and 24-16 at halftime. Senior center Toby Holm led the way with six points in the first quarter and seven in the second on the way to his team-high 21 points. Senior Moze Thurmgreene added 10 points for JCHS, including three 3-pointers.
But the Lions outscored JCHS 17-13 in the third quarter and 16-10 in the fourth quarter to escape with a narrow victory. The Lions ended the game on a 5-0 run after trailing 47-44 with three minutes to go.
JCHS entered the game looking to avenge a 43-35 loss to Redding Christian in the first round of last year’s NorCal playoffs. As it turned out, the Wolves will settle for a school-record 21 victories and probably the best season ever in the 18-year history of the school.
With the game so far away from San Francisco, many JCHS students, staff and parents opted to keep up with the action via a live video feed on Facebook (even though the video was sideways). Comments there included “Lots to be proud of, not just tonight but the whole season,” “Ellen watching from Glasgow” and “My neck is hurting” (because of the sideways feed).
Redding Christian will return to action Tuesday night in the NorCal Division VI championship game in Antioch against No. 1 seed Cornerstone Christian (33-2), the same team that beat JCHS 66-53 in the championship game of the section playoffs two weeks ago.
Division VI is for schools with enrollments of fewer than 200 students, and it is the only division in the California Interscholastic Federation that doesn’t conclude its season with a NorCal-vs-SoCal matchup to crown a state champion.