OAKLEY, Calif. -
Everything you needed to know about the Deer Valley (Antioch)
boys basketball team was revealed in a simply wild 90-84 win at Freedom (Oakley)
The Wolverines, behind the lights-out 3-point shooting of Olajuwon Garner
(34 points) and sixth-man Dylan Williams
(19 points), showed off their vast and impressive talents while racing to a 19-8, 39-25, 47-30 and at its peak, 80-59 with less than six minutes to go.
But then the Wolverines (18-7) let their foot off the pedal. They took ill-advised shots. They played little-to-no transition defense. They turned the ball over.
In a word, they relaxed.
Yes, Freedom (19-6) is no slouch and certainly never stopped coming, cutting the lead all the way to 83-77 with 2:07 remaining.
The Falcons, behind 21 points from Elliot Smith
, had a chance to close to within a basket but Deer Valley's dominating 6-foot-9 post Marcus Lee
, saddled with four fouls throughout the fourth quarter, saved the day with one of his eight blocked shots on one end and a dunk at the other.
That took the wind out of the sails for Freedom, which never led but huffed and puffed and somehow made it a game.
Deer Valley coach LeChet Phillips scolded his squad, but took a step back and praised the effort of the Falcons.
"That game epitomized our season and team," Phillips said. "We show well in spurts but we truly haven't put four quarters together. … To be fair, that's a heck of a team we beat and they fight to the end. We knew that the would."
With Garner, a 6-3, 195-pound senior, and remarkably quick 6-3 junior point guard Kendall Smith
(19 points, 13 assists, six steals), six steals, eight assists), the Wolverines possess arguably the best backcourt in the Bay Area.
And when Garner gets in a rhythm like he did Tuesday, making 6 of 9 3-pointers, Deer Valley can beat anyone in Northern California.
That is if Lee (13 points, 12 rebounds, 11 blocks), who is getting major Division I looks, can stay out of foul trouble.
Deer Valley has numerous other strong pieces that include 6-6 senior Noah LaBonte
and 6-4 junior Kenny Robinson
. Add in Williams – Phillips called him "The Microwave" after former NBA super shooting sub Vinnie Johnson – and Deer Valley can definitely put the ball in the basket.
"We just need to play smarter, stay out of foul trouble and take care of the ball," Phillips said.
Freedom, without a lot of size, makes up for it with superior quickness and toughness.
Elliot Smith, an impressive 6-4 sophomore, scored most of his hoops inside as did Sam Bide
(15 points), a 6-1 junior, and Ramiro Contreras
(12 points), a 6-5 junior.
Add in strong guard play by athletic Jehiah Gennaro
(14 points), James O'Neal
(13 points) and Jelani Hardaway
, and Freedom will be dangerous in the postseason.
It wouldn't be that unlikely if these two teams meet again in the North Coast Section Division I playoffs.
Deer Valley can wrap up its first outright Bay Valley Athletic League title with a win at Pittsburg (Calif.)
on Thursday, the same day as Freedom plays at Liberty (Brentwood)
Both games are schedule at 7 p.m.