SAN FRANCISCO — Last season, CIF NorCal Division VI playoffs resulted in heartbreak for the Jewish Community High School boys basketball team, which was eliminated by the Redding Christian Lions in the first round.
The loss still sticks in the minds of both head coach Jon Shogan and the players still around from last year’s team. After the best season in program history, the Wolves had a chance to make history on Wednesday night against Vacaville Christian.
With a 59-39 win that saw Jewish Community in complete control from wire to wire, the No. 3-seeded Wolves not only set a program record for wins in a season — 21 — they did something no other team in school history had done: reach the second round of the NorCal playoffs.
“It’s big to win a NorCal game over a quality opponent like Vacaville Christian,” Shogan said. “They’re a section title winner and they didn’t make things easy for us today.”
After losing the the North Coast Section Division VI final to the No. 1 seeded Antioch-Cornerstone Christian, Jewish Community came out hot on Wednesday, going on an 11-2 run to start the first quarter.
In the middle of the scoring barrage was Wolves senior Toby Holm, who scored six of the 11 points. His interior presence was the catalyst for his early success.
“He was really determined and focused,” Shogan said. “He told me before the game the he was going to be undenied in the paint.”
The 6-foot-4 forward consistently found his way inside of the key for point-blank lay-ins and put-back efforts. By halftime, Holm would have a game-high 14 points, shooting 6-of-8 and grabbing three rebounds.
“I feel like it all started with the hustle,” Holm said. “Once I started getting rebounds everything kind of fell into place.”
In addition to Holm’s dominance, the Wolves were also able to clamp down on the defensive side of the ball, holding Vacaville Christian to only six second-quarter points.
Jewish Community even held the Falcons scoreless for a four-and-a-half-minute stretch during the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third.
“They have a lot of great shooters so we were just trying to hedge that out,” Holm said. “Once they were penetrating into the paint, just go straight up and not foul.”
After ending the first half with a 31-16 lead, the Wolves got up by as many as 21 points in the third quarter before Vacaville Christian made their only real push to get back into the game.
Ending the third on a 15-6 run, the Falcons pulled themselves within 11 points until Wolves guard Aidan Swan rattled off six unanswered points at the beginning of the fourth to firmly take back control of the game.
“We’ve lost a few leads this year and I feel like we sometimes sit on our leads too much,” Shogan said. “Tonight, though, the kids kept scoring and and it wasn’t through plays that I called. It was fun to watch. I felt like a spectator at times.”
With one-minute to play in the fourth, Vacaville Christian would finally concede by sending in their reserves, down by 20 points.
With the memory of last season’s loss to Redding Christian still sitting in the back of their minds, the Wolves have now set themselves up for a chance at redemption. The No. 2-seeded Lions could be their next opponent, should they win against No. 7-seeded Mendocino on Thursday.
“Our guys are hungry,” Shogan said. “We lost up in Redding last year. We’ve played up there. These guys are ready for anything.”