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Bruins Open NorCal Playoffs In Vallejo
The last time the Bruins of St. Patrick/St. Vincent High in Vallejo hosted Riverbank in the basketball postseason, they watched their southeastern counterparts of the same mascot moniker capture an upset victory.

Riverbank coach Jeff Jennings, who played on the 1991 Bruin team that accomplished the feat, is hoping history can repeat itself 22 years later.

Riverbank fell to Ripon in the final seconds of their Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal on Feb. 29, leaving the Bruins short of a finals berth, but still in position to tackle the 2012 California Interscholastic Federation Boys Basketball Playoffs.

The state playoffs begin today, Wednesday, March. 7 when St. Patrick/St. Vincent (No. 6 seed) hosts Riverbank (No. 11) at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to face No. 3 host seed Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton on March 10.

"It's definitely an interesting match-up," Jennings said on Monday. "They (St. Patrick/St. Vincent) are big and play in a very tough league.

"Though they have some size, we are a little quicker."

St. Patrick/St. Vincent won three consecutive playoff games by margins of 11 or fewer points before a 75-50 loss in the North Coast Section finals to highly touted Bay Shore rival Salesian, which is ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 24 in the nation across all divisions by

The Bruins of Vallejo (19-11 overall) feature the likes of 6 foot, 6 inch sophomore forward, Jalen Canty, and a host of well seasoned guards in the frontcourt. Riverbank (23-4) is led by a three-headed guard tandem of Rolaun Dunham, Kenny Veliz and Alex Reynaga, with plenty of talent across the post from the likes of Antony Navarette, Robert Martinez and Logan Nabors.

Dunham led Riverbank back to contention against Ripon during their Sac Joaquin Section semifinal when he drained a back foot fade-away trey to bring Riverbank within two points with only 16 seconds to play. Ripon answered with successful conversions of every free throw in the final seconds to claim a 53-46 victory.

"I expected the game to be very close," Ripon coach Rod Wright said afterwards. "Riverbank is a very good team with three good guards that can shoot the ball, so we just were not sure when they were going to explode for shots.

"Rolaun hit some tough threes at the end to bring them back."

Dunham ended with 14 points in the loss while Veliz scored 12. Nabors (eight) and Reynaga (seven) also made key shots.

"To be a part of this game was a really special moment and memory," Reynaga (senior) said. "We had a good connection from the first moment we got together and I am really happy and honored to be with these guys right now."

Ripon led 20-15 at the half and mounted a 30-19 lead to start the third quarter. Dunham brought the deficit to six points with an early fourth quarter three-pointer and watched Veliz cut the lead to five with his own trey just seconds later.

Ripon jumped ahead 43-34 with three minutes to play, but Riverbank fired back with a late rally as Ripon senior center Jake McCreath was forced to sit with four fouls. Reynaga made it a two point game with 40 seconds to play, but Ripon answered with a three point play just 13 seconds later. Dunham's shot gave Riverbank a shot at a late comeback, but Ripon proved too solid at the foul line when the Bruins badly needed misses.

"We took this game to our hearts and really wanted to win it for our seniors," Dunham (sophomore) said. "Our seniors just kept pushing us and telling us to keep our heads in it, and it helps every time."

The Bruin crowd proved to be a big factor at the neutral Tokay High gymnasium for the 9 p.m. semifinal contest.

The larger and louder Riverbank fan base would often drown out noise created by Ripon's fans and were a spectacle with action from their imposing cheering section at the southeast corner of the gym.

"It was amazing to see how many people drove such a distance for such a late game," Jennings said. "We've had such awesome support."