Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Notebook: Larson, Elliott coming to town; big week for Monterey Trail basketball

 John Hull's Notebook: 1/31/23

Kyle Larson, Elk Grove's own NASCAR driver, is bringing his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott with him Thursday, Feb. 2 for a special appearance at the grand opening of Red Hawk Casino's "The Apex."

The pair will race a select group of local residents in "The Apex'", a brand new three-level, indoor go-kart track. Larson and Elliott will make an appearance at 6 p.m. on Thursday, the opening day for Red Hawk's new amusement complex. Besides the three-level electric go-kart facility, there will be 18 lanes of interactive bowling, four golf simulators, a sprawling reality arcade, sports bar and walk-up grill.

Larson and Elliott are in California in preparation for the NASCAR Cup Series opener at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sunday, the "Busch Lite Clash at the Coliseum." A small asphalt oval has been squeezed into the the historic stadium for a weekend of racing.

Saturday will be practice laps and 25-lap qualifiers for a 27-car field. On Sunday, the 150-lap main event will be run at 5 p.m. PT and can be seen on Fox.

Big Week for Mustangs

There's a three-team horse race right now for the Metro Conference boys basketball championship. It all starts Wednesday with Grant (15-7, 8-1) at Monterey Trail (13-10, 8-1) for first place. Lurking behind that pair in second place is Laguna Creek (20-5, 7-2). On Friday the Mustangs and the Cardinals face off at Laguna Creek.

Basically, whoever wins both games this week will be the conference champion and the top seed from the Metro. All those three teams are already into the Sac-Joaquin Section's playoffs which begin in two weeks. Monterey Trail will be in the Division I bracket while Laguna Creek and Grant will compete in Division II. The Pacers are the two-time defending champions in D-2.

Franklin drops tough one to Troubies

Franklin's girls basketball team (13-11, 5-4) took on Delta League frontrunner St. Francis (17-4, 8-0) Tuesday and hung right with the Troubadours for the first 16 minutes before dropping behind in the second half and losing, 57-44.

Wildcat head coach Kim Manlangit says St. Francis has one of their best teams in a while. 

Franklin's Kim Manlangit

"They are tough coverage," she said. "There are a couple good shooters on their team. Sidney Teoh is their point guard and she is pretty crafty. Chidera Okoye killed us on the boards. That was our problem. She gave them several second-chance points. Then their press got us rattled and got them a couple possessions in the third (quarter). We played them close for (most of the minutes), but you have to play a complete game against St. Francis."

Franklin looks locked into third place in the Delta behind the Troubies (8-0) and Cosumnes Oaks (6-2). Davis and Sheldon will be fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot.

Hannah commits with Westmont

After a terrific fall golf season at Pleasant Grove, Hannah Camara announced this week she's committed to play collegiately at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. 

Hannah Camara

Camara and Alyssa Quilao were the seniors on the Eagles team which won the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Golf Championship and placed third at the NCGA/CIF NorCal Championships and fourth at the CIF State Golf championships this season. 

If she's not on the driving range or putting green at Rancho Murieta, Camara can be found working in the pro shop regularly. She's one of the most dedicated young golfers around. 

Remembering Pete Saco

On Sunday, former Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner

Pete Saco passed away at the age of 70. In my early years of covering Elk Grove sports I ran across Pete frequently and we never had much conversation, but he did acknowledge me and we only briefly talked. I think he knew I was media and he respected that and I respected him.

I knew he had to deal with a lot of self-serving, arrogant coaches, parents and players, but Saco was there to make certain the rules were followed and no one could run roughshod across the experience that high school sports is supposed to be. He came down hard on those who circumvented the rules to try to elevate their winning status.

I saw something Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee wrote this week:

"Saco was every bit one of the good guys. He was a joy for the media to work with because he was available and honest and blunt. He urged all state schools to work with the media and laughed off any notion that those who cover prep sports are "the enemy or are rooting against you," he recalled. "That's just stupid. Any coach who is that paranoid or works that hard to create an issue shouldn't be coaching kids.""

When Saco had to drop the hammer, as Davidson called it, he did. There was the Franklin of Stockton football recruiting of boys from America Samoa in 2007 and Sheldon's recruiting of kids off the floor of AAU basketball teams in 2014. 

But, Saco did indeed move prep sports forward with the formation of the CIF State Football Bowl games along with the expansion of the State Basketball Championshihps, plus creating what is now the Dale Lacky Scholarship Fund.

It is a bit of a thankless job to be a commissioner of any of the CIF's 10 Sections, but Saco laid the groundwork for those who followed.

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