Submitted by Denair High School:
ELK GROVE – On this night, Bradshaw Christian simply was the better team. Led by 6-foot-8 senior center Javion Cooper, the Pride turned away Denair 60-45 Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V basketball playoffs.
Denair (26-3), which rolled to a Southern League championship behind its bruising front line and overall balance, found itself in an unfamiliar position as the smaller team against Bradshaw Christian and Cooper.
“He had seven or eight blocked shots by himself and they had 12 or 13 as a team,” said Denair Coach R.J. Henderson. “I think their length was the difference. You can watch it on film, but until you see it in person or coach against it, it’s just a different feel. I think it took us until halftime to really adjust.”
By that time, the Coyotes were down 31-21. And though they cut the lead to eight points early in the fourth quarter, they never could get close enough to really threaten Bradshaw.
“Every time we made a run, they usually answered it with a run of their own,” Henderson said. “Ten points behind felt like 25. Credit to them. Where we wanted to catch the ball, they didn’t let us.
“I wasn’t disappointed with our effort. … I just think sometimes you’re going to run up against a team that’s better.”
Jordan Smith-Siles led Denair with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Jacob Kuharski had 14 rebounds. Sophomore guard Connor Leonard came off the bench to add seven points and seven assists.
“Jordan was really our one guy who kept us in it,” Henderson said. “And I thought Connor played really well.”
Bradshaw’s victory avenged last season’s overtime loss to Denair in the second round of the playoffs.
Despite losing, Denair will play at least once more next week in the Northern California tournament. Pairings will be announced Sunday and the Coyotes certainly can expect a long bus ride to a higher seeded opponent.
“My guess is we’ll play a Section champ or runner-up,” Henderson said. “Our seniors aren’t ready for this to end yet. There were some tears in the locker room after the game. … I don’t have any idea where they’ll send us. I just know we have another game.”
Meanwhile, Bradshaw Christian moves on to the Section finals on Friday against Brookside Christian in Sacramento. Both schools also have already qualified for the NorCal tournament.