The Deer Valley High boys basketball team took a sturdy step toward a possible third consecutive Bay Valley Athletic League title with a 76-73 win over host Freedom on Tuesday night.
As for the Wolverines' Kentucky-bound center Marcus Lee, he took a bunch of giant leaps.
Lee had an easy-looking double-double, and guard Kendall Smith had 21 points to pace the Wolverines (17-4, 5-0 BVAL), who prevailed in the battle for sole possession of first place in a game that wrapped up the first half of league play.
The 6-foot-10 Lee had six blocks and 15 rebounds -- in the first half. He finished with 16 points, including an over-the-head dunk on a rebound with his back to the basket.
"The big fellow in the paint, if he doesn't block a shot he changes a shot," Freedom coach Drew Torres said. "I think that was the biggest thing. Our guys worried too much."
The Falcons (14-7, 4-1) made the final score close with a big final quarter by their substitutes. Freedom trailed by 21 points after the third quarter but began pouring in 3-pointers late.
Deer Valley coach LeChet Phillips doesn't plan to leave the BVAL's top perch any time soon. He respected Freedom's play and drive.
"They are a tough team," Phillips said. "They've been trying to do everything they can to try to win it for the last couple of years, and we want to make sure they stay behind us."
Freedom was paced by senior guard James O'Neal's 21 points. Sam Bide and
Salesian 61, El Cerrito 48: Jabari Bird scored 20 points as the visiting Pride (19-3, 8-0 Tri-County Athletic League) used a 17-1 run bridging the second and third quarters to beat the Gauchos (16-8, 6-2).
El Cerrito was able to hang with the top team in Northern California for a quarter, taking a 13-12 lead after one. However, the Gauchos were not able to fully take advantage of sloppy ball-handling by Salesian, which committed turnovers on four of its first five possessions. The Pride finished with nine turnovers in the first quarter and 31 in the game.
"Those empty possessions," lamented El Cerrito coach Michael Booker. "We'd get steals, we'd get deflections and we'd come down here and we'd miss a layup, we'd miss a jumper. Empty possessions equal scores for them."
"We've had a stretch of games where we haven't gotten off to the best start," Salesian coach Bill Mellis said. "We have been settling in. Once the dust settles, we've been able to be OK in the second and third quarter. For a team that has 19 wins, we certainly do not think that we are clicking on all cylinders."
Markel Leonard added 12 points for Salesian. Tyrell Alcorn came off the bench for the Gauchos and scored 10.
-- Damin Esper, correspondent
Three East Bay football players were selected to Cal-Hi Sports' all-state first-team. De La Salle's Michael Hutchings and Austin Hooper were selected to the first-team defense and James Logan's Warren Miles Long was a multi-purpose selection.
Hutchings, a USC-bound linebacker, was already named California's Mr. Football by Cal-Hi Sports. Hooper is a defensive end headed to Stanford. Long, who thrived at running back and linebacker this year, will play at Northwestern.
-- Stephanie Hammon