Rivalry Meeting Of Walnut Creek’s Two Public School Boys Hoops Teams Reaches New Hype Levels •
But, this year in boys basketball, the matchup is the biggest in a long time. Perhaps ever.
For one, Las Lomas (13-0) is ranked seventh in the state and 42nd in the nation by MaxPreps. Northgate (12-1) is in the midst of a tremendous turnaround, zooming along after finishing 6-20 the previous season.
Anticipation for the Jan. 9 game at Northgate has built to a fever pitch. Additionally, that buzz was amplified at a dual-team press conference Jan. 7 presented by and staged at The Ultimate Fieldhouse in Walnut Creek and streamed live by NorCalSportsTV.com.
Even with the impressive 13-0 start, Las Lomas coach Brian Dietschy sees room for improvement. Also, that’s a good thing, as the Knights gear up for greater goals.
“We are playing well right now, but I think we can play a lot better. We’re not the biggest team, so I’ve told these guys that we need to rebound and need to be conscious of that,” he said. “A five-man job, everybody pitching in there. Defense has got to be our backbone; we have got to stop people.”
What’s helped fuel Las Lomas this season is how its last one ended. The Knights entered the North Coast Section as the No. 2 seed in Division II, but lost their opener to Montgomery-Santa Rosa 50-45. They landed in the CIF Division II regional field, but again lost their opener, this time 68-55 to San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno.
“We all know what it feels like to lose,” Knights guard/forward Devin Payne said. “I think we thought we’d go really far in the playoffs. It was kind of a wake-up call for us.”
It’s been win-win-win all the time this season for Las Lomas, which has beaten Mt. Eden-Hayward (twice, including the Sonoma County Classic championship game), Berkeley, St. Ignatius-San Francisco and El Cerrito (also twice).
Though Northgate is the Walnut Creek program that has earned a state championship (1995), recent history is most certainly in the Knights’ favor.
Furthermore, Las Lomas has seven straight seasons with a winning record, with four 20+ records in that span. With Las Lomas now holding a national ranking, the Broncos even have encountered a few doubters on their own campus.
“We’ve got people from our own school telling us that Las Lomas is going to beat us,” said Northgate center Graham Michiels. “So there’s people from our own school, who are kind of against us. … That’s how it is sometimes, I guess. But we’ve got people who are really ultra-rooting for us, after such a successful (start to the) season, people who really want to see if we keep following through with our improvement.”
That improvement began by opening with 12 straight wins before a road bump with a 56-44 loss at Vallejo on Jan. 5. It’s still the program’s best start to a season in over two decades, and the product of hard work the Broncos put in after the 6-20 mark last season, in coach Ron Pangilinan’s first year with the program.
“Did I think we would go 12-0? No, not at all,” Pangilinan said. “I think that is a direct reflection of the boys’ hard work — back in February, up until now.
“Both Las Lomas and us being as successful as we are says a lot about just the community,” he added. “It’s a real special time.”
Lastly, with the dueling success stories, the atmosphere at this year’s Battle of the Creek should be electric.
“I am expecting absolute madness. Also, It’s going to be really crazy,” Michiels said.