Immanuel High School's rich boys basketball tradition has never included a trip to the state finals.
That all changed March 5 before a raucous capacity crowd at the IHS South Gym. Led by a press-slashing 16 points from sophomore guard Shawn Rodgers and a suffocating defensive effort, the Eagles took charge in the second half to defeat the Wood High Wildcats from Vacaville, 60-48, in the Northern California championship game.
The emotional triumph puts the Eagles (26-8) one win away from the program's first-ever state basketball championship. The final obstacle is a big one, the top-seeded Southern California champion Ribet Academy from Los Angeles. The Fighting Frogs (26-3) rolled their way to the south state crown with a 20-point victory in their final on March 5.
The game will be played at noon Saturday, March 9, in the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. The two-year old arena is home to the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
"Man, I'm than excited. I can't even put it into words," said Rodgers, who kept Immanuel in striking distance with 10 first-half points. "This team, what we've been through. And now we're victorious, and going to state in Sacramento. It's what we dream of, but we made that dream come true."
The Eagles' defense ignited the decisive third quarter domination. Trailing 31-26, they ran off 11 unanswered points and capped a 19-2 run with an inside basket by Kaleb Daglish (nine points) to build a 45-33 lead that wads 45-35 going into the final quarter. Rodgers was key in neutralizing Wood's full-court pressure.
"He was awesome. He came in and made some big layups in transition," IHS coach Chris Woods said of Rodgers. "We were prepared for their press and knew what areas would be open. I'm glad [teammates] found Shawn on that weak side."
Rodgers said he felt no ill effects from a rolled right ankle he suffered during a 74-69 quarterfinal victory over Brookside Christian on Feb. 28. He was going full-speed in the Eagles' thrilling 88-86 double-overtime victory over Mission of San Francisco on March 2.
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