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March 17, 2010 > Newark Memorial in Nor Cal Final

Newark Memorial in Nor Cal Final

By Biff Jones

Newark Memorial High School boys basketball has itself a rematch of the North Coast Section (NCS) Finals. After beating Castlemont and Sheldon high schools in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Northern California Quarters and Semis, respectively, the Cougars earned a second shot at beating De La Salle High in the CIF Nor Cal Finals.

De La Salle, as the number-two seed in the NCS tourney, beat the top-seeded Cougars in the NCS Finals at St. Mary's College, 40-37, last month. The two sides will meet again with a State Championship Game appearance on the line, this time with De La Salle as the top seed, Newark as the three seed.

"We have to score more than 37 points," said Newark coach Craig Ashmore of the team's needs to be on the winning end in the Nor Cal Finals, adding "(We need to) make more free throws and more lay-ups."

And despite holding Newark down for most of its NCS Championship winning contest, De La Salle coach Frank Allocco believes the Cougars are extremely talented and pose a serious threat for his ball club.

"They are a very good team," said Allocco. "They have strengths in every position, especially inside the paint."

Despite its lack of height (the tallest players are 6'4'') Newark Memorial dominates on the defensive end. The team forces opponents to shoot from the perimeter and likes to add extra pressure by utilizing the full court press for the duration of the game.

Newark's last appearance in the CIF State Championship was in 2000 when they lost to Dominguez High of Compton. Newark will look to earn its first berth into the CIF State Championship Game in a decade when they tip off against De La Salle on Saturday, March 20, 8 p.m. at Arco Arena in Sacramento.

In the CIF Quarterfinals on Thursday, March 11, Newark (27-4) hosted no.-6 seed Castlemont (17-12). First half belonged to the Cougars, outscoring the Knights 16-7 in the opening quarter; 13-7 in the second for a 29-14 halftime lead.

Third quarter was a different story as Newark quickly ran into foul trouble and had the visitors in the bonus.

"We were out of our element in the third quarter," said Ashmore. Consequently, Castlemont closed the gap to 37-33 going into the fourth quarter, outscoring Newark 19-8 in the third.

In the last quarter, the Cougar defense stepped up and held the Knights to just six points while scoring 11 points themselves for a 48-39 victory and a place in the Nor Cal DI semifinals on Saturday, March 13. Newark was led by senior Khion Stankey with 11 points.

Seven-seed Sheldon (28-5) traveled to Newark Memorial (28-4) for the semifinals after upsetting second-seeded Bellarmine Prep two days earlier.

Junior Kendall Andrews poured in 13 second quarter points for Newark as the Cougars outscored the Huskies 23-11 in the second quarter for a 38-23 lead at halftime.

Third quarter was also all Cougars as the hosts tightened up the defense even more, holding the Capital City visitors to only nine third-quarter points as they took a commanding 56-32 advantage entering the final quarter.

In the fourth, Sheldon put on a full-court press and continued to press and double team Newark all over the court, causing Cougar turnovers which the Huskies converted into points, cutting Newark's lead to 10 points, but it was too little too late. Newark held out for a 75-61 victory.

Leading the Cougars were Andrews (24 points), Stankey (16), sophomore Casey Norris (13) and senior Jisuan Randle (12).

Winner of the Newark-De La Salle Nor Cal DI Final (Saturday, March 20, 8 p.m. at Arco Arena in Sacramento) will play the So Cal DI Champion on Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m. at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield for the California Division I Boys High School Basketball Championship.

David J. Nicolas contributed to this article.

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