SACRAMENTO -- Kendall Smith was brought to tears as he and Deer Valley High teammate Marcus Lee considered the fact that their high school career together was over.
The Wolverines fell to Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove 73-60 in the Northern California Division I boys basketball regional championship game on March 16 at Sleep Train Arena.
Smith, a UNLV-bound guard, scored 17 points while battling a high ankle sprain suffered four days earlier and Lee, a Kentucky-bound McDonald's All-American, had 10 points and 16 rebounds.
"It brings tears to my eyes," Smith said. "I didn't even realize it's our last game playing together. We're moving on and he's going to have a great career, I'm going to have a great career. We're always going to be family."
Said Lee, "This has been my family, my cousin. I did everything with him. He's been my point guard since Day 1. Knowing this is probably my last game with him and not against, it hurts. We've been through a lot and conquered a lot."
Smith was clearly limited throughout the night, but still managed to play all but about 2½ minutes of the game. Smith was the Wolverines' offensive catalyst all season, as they won the Bay Valley Athletic League title, captured the program's first North Coast Section championship, advanced to the NorCal Division I final for the first time and finished with a 26-6 record.
"He's a soldier," Deer Valley coach LeChet Philips said of Smith. "He tried to get through it, tried to play through.."
Deer Valley led 14-13 after the first quarter, during which Lee picked up two fouls. He remained out of foul trouble the rest of the half, but Pleasant Grove surged in the second quarter to take a 36-27 lead into halftime.
The Wolverines rallied in the third, going on a 13-2 run to tie the game at 40 with 3:01 left in the period. Smith made a floater with 21 seconds left in the quarter to give Deer Valley the lead, but a late bucket by Pleasant Grove gave the Eagles a 48-47 advantage entering the fourth.
The lead fluctuated throughout the period. Pleasant Grove took an eight-point advantage that was quickly cut back down to three. Deer Valley trailed 65-60 with 1:46 left in the game.
The Wolverines rebounded an Eagles' miss with 1:18 to go, but couldn't convert at the other end and Colfax Nordquist scored for Pleasant Grove to make it 67-60 with under a minute left and effectively seal the deal. The Eagles closed the game on an 8-0 run.
Pleasant Grove was deadly from the free-throw line, converting 27 of 28 attempts.
"We really stress free throws in practice and shoot a lot of free throws over and over," Eagles coach John DePonte said. "Once we got on a roll, I think everyone just fed off the success."
Matthew Hayes scored 20 points to lead Pleasant Grove. Malik Thames had 17 and Colfax Nordquist had 16 points and 12 rebounds.
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