Mariposa seniors Brad Chambers (No. 5) and Dalton Rockwood (No. 22) proudly display the first-ever MCHS Sac- Joaquin Section basketball championship pennant. The Grizzlies whipped Brookside Christian of Stockton last Friday night at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, 79-75, in overtime for the title. Rockwood dumped in a record-setting 35 points and Chambers added 19 to pace Mariposa. (See photographic dedication to the championship team on page A-7.)
A raucous crowd estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 Mariposa County residents and MCHS students, clad in Grizzly green and gold, witnessed the underdog Grizzlies claim the school’s first ever Sac-Joaquin Division V basketball championship last Friday night.
Inside Sacramento’s cavernous Sleep Train Arena, Mariposa’s relentless squad wore down a taller, stronger and faster Brookside Christian team to post a 79-75 overtime victory, paced by a record-setting effort from senior Dalton Rockwood.
Rockwood’s 35 points established a new milestone in scoring for a Division V championship game. It also placed him fourth in all-time title game scoring in any division of the Sac-Joaquin Section.
The Grizzlies trailed for most of the contest, falling behind 20-15 in the first quarter and lagging by 40-35 at the intermission.
Mariposa outscored the Knights, 17-12 in the third frame, and 22-19 in the final stanza to deadlock the battle at 71-71, sending it into the overtime.
Senior point guard Brad Chambers drove home 19 points and registered seven assists, while senior Jacob Baca was a beast on the boards, tearing down 15 rebounds while bucketing 11 points.
Veteran coach, but first year varsity head coach Bob Jaekle said, “This game was a lot like the other two playoff games, we were the smaller team at every position. The other teams we played are more athletic, and bigger than us, but we just battle every possession. The strength of our team is obviously our conditioning, our willingness to fight on every possession, and the fact that we never quit. We’ve been down by double digits in every game this post-season, and haven’t even blinked. It’s great to have a bunch of guys, led by our seniors, who are just unwilling to give up.
“Dalton played a great game, and Brookside just had no answer for him on the offensive end,” Jaekle added.
Mariposa is only the second public school to claim the section title in over a decade. Denair won the title in 2002, but every other year the championship has been claimed by a private institution.
MCUSD Superintendent Robin Hopper said, “It was a magical, fairy tale game that will become legendary in the halls of MCHS for generations to come. I have never attended a more exciting, suspenseful, nail-biter game in my life.
“Our Grizzlies basketball team did us proud and it seemed as if half the County was there to support and cheer them on. We rocked the house and filled the arena with green and gold, cheers and chants. In true Mariposa fashion, the community support was absolutely astounding; the number of fans that attended the game shocked our opponents and the staff at the venue.”
According to the superintendent, seven buses made the trek to Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena to transport the athletes, band, cheerleaders, color guard, student rooters in grades 6th-12th, chaperones and adult fans.
One of the buses was dedicated to North County and it alone had 46 students plus chaperones.
An untold number of supporters took to the freeway in their private vehicles to attend the momentous event.
“Everyone was united in the support of this landmark event, and there was overwhelming positive feedback for closing schools to facilitate this historic day. I can’t thank the Mariposa community enough for the outpouring of encouragement, and backing they continuously provide our sports and academic programs. This community is special and unique; it is the cornerstone of our school system and that is a key reason why I feel so fortunate to be back home and serving as superintendent of schools,” Hopper added.
Long-time supporter of Grizzly athletic teams Jim Musick, who made the trip, said, “Our fans out numbered theirs by three or four to one. It was great, that’s the way Mariposa does it.”
“It may have been the best high school basketball game I have ever attended. I have been watching Grizzly basketball since 1966 and in my opinion, this is the greatest victory a Mariposa basketball team has ever had,” said former MCHS head coach Trace DeSandres.
Legendary MCHS basketball coach Loyd Hobby, who brought several teams to the brink of the title game but never secured the slot, said, “These guys aren’t oversized. They are quick enough, but not too quick. Their conditioning is good and they are a group to contend with. Their talents are very complimentary, but what makes the difference is they don’t know what quit means.
“They accomplished what the MCHS basketball program has sought to do for years and years,” Hobby praised.
Scoring updates during the game were posted on the GAZETTE’S Facebook page. By Saturday morning, over 8,500 Grizzly fans had read the posts, and as of Monday afternoon that number had climbed to over 10,000.
Kent Thompson posted, “Congratulations Grizzlies. There is no quit in these kids or their coach!” Vickie Mounts added, “Congrats! What a great accomplishment and for these young men to be a part of it. What a memory!”
In another post, Juanita Nance wrote, “Mariposa is so proud of them!” And Russ Marks posted, “First section championship in boys’ basketball, true heart. Played the whole game to an outstanding crowd of fans whom made the 300- plus mile round trip to rock the arena.”
The section championship vaulted the Grizzlies into the Northern California Regional Division V playoffs.
Round one began Wednesday. MCHS earned a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in its bracket, and it will host the winner of the No. 7-seeded Stuart Hall of San Francisco versus No. 10-seeded Elliot Christian of Lodi this Saturday.
Both of the teams Mariposa whipped for the Sac- Joaquin Section title, Brookside Christian and Bradshaw Christian, made the Northern California playoffs, which will eventually name the state champion in that division.
The second round game will be played in the Merced Junior College gymnasium to accommodate the expected crowd, rather than the friendly confines of the Grizzlies’ home court inside Loyd Hobby Gymnasium. The facility is located at 3600 M Street in Merced.
Tickets are $9 for general admission (adults), students with ID are $5, and children at $5. Game time is 6 p.m.