When things get a little helter-skelter for the Oakwood High boys basketball team, their dialogue on the floor and especially during timeouts gets ratched up a notch.
It can seem chaotic at times, but in the end, the Hawks usually put things together and such was the case in a 64-54 win over Summit Shasta of Daly City in a Central Coast Section Division V playoff semifinal Thursday at Santa Clara High.
The No. 2 seed Hawks (23-4) play top seed Woodside Priory (23-3) for the championship 1pm Saturday at Santa Clara High. Oakwood has reached its first-ever CCS final in program history, having advanced to the semifinals several times previously but falling short.
This time, Oakwood broke through in a big way. But the Hawks aren’t fully satisfied just yet.
“I’m at a loss for words to be honest because we’ve worked pretty hard and I’m pretty sure I can say Oakwood has been a small program for a long time and we’re trying to win a CCS championship,” senior Marton Safranka said. “The job’s not finished.”
Safranka was a big reason why the Hawks have soared this season. The 6-foot-7 guard/forward scored 18 points against the upstart Summit Shasta team, which was at a severe height disadvantage against Oakwood but had quick guards who consistently got to the basket off dribble penetration.
Safranka and 6-8 center Luka Kokochasvili are Oakwood’s twin towers, but with a starting five that goes 6-8, 6-7, 6-5, 6-5 and 6-3, the Hawks have one of the tallest teams in the section. However, they were missing one of their 6-5 starters in guard Lazar Cankovic, who is their best on the ball defender and disrupts opposing team’s offenses with his athleticism, length and quickness.
The senior suffered an ankle injury in the prior game and the team can only hope he plays Saturday because Woodside Priory is the top seed for a reason.
“It was tough without him,” Safranka said. “I feel like he’s the best defender in the league without a doubt. We missed him but hopefully he’ll be back on Saturday.”
Langston Watson scored a team-high 20 points, using an assortment of drives and pull-up jumpers. He made several tough shots in traffic and always provides a presence. Kokochasvili had 11 points and double-digit rebounds.
“Luka had very good finishes and Langston did a great job of passing and running the offense,” Safranka said. “My teammates are doing an amazing job.”
The Hawks soared to a 18-7 advantage after the first quarter and stretched the lead to 16 points on two Watson free throws to make it 50-34 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game. At that point, it looked as if Oakwood was going to run away with things.
However, the Black Bears did just enough to make sure Oakwood couldn’t get too comfortable until the final horn sounded, cutting the deficit to eight points at one point. As he’s done all season, Watson got to the lane down the stretch and threw some darts to teammates for layups, including one to Marko Milentijevic (eight points) and another to Mateo Juarez (seven points).
Safranka said it was good for the team to face a feisty Summit Shasta squad but knows they need to tighten things up against a more talented Woodside Priory side.
“I feel like we had to tweak some things inside chemistry-wise and toward the second half we got through those and got a bigger lead,” Safranka said. “In the end, we just have to get better on offense and defense.”