SAN RAMON — Frank Allocco Jr. knows what it’s like for a high school basketball team to aim high and work to reach the target. He did it when he played for his father at Northgate High more than a quarter-century ago and would go on to capture a state championship in 1995.
Now the coach at Clayton Valley Charter, Allocco has his own players aiming high.
“When I got the job, I told them, ‘All I ask is that you guys think big,’” he said. “Think big. And they have. They’ve believed in what I told them and they’ve worked like a championship team.”
Clayton Valley reaped the rewards on Saturday night, holding off top-seeded Dougherty Valley 76-71 to win the North Coast Section Division I title.
Dougherty Valley’s Ryan Beasley matched the 43 points he scored in the semifinals against Moreau Catholic. The junior had 28 in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats desperately tried to put a dent in the visitor’s lead, but they never got closer than four.
“I remember him when he was 8 years old at our basketball camps doing what he does now,” Allocco said. “I’ve always known he was going to be special. He’s unbelievable.”
Beasley’s late heroics weren’t enough.
When it ended, second-seeded Clayton Valley hoisted an NCS championship trophy for the first time in the program’s history.
Jake King was sensational for the Ugly Eagles, finishing with a team-high 24 points.
“Jake’s our heart-and-soul,” Allocco said. “He just cares so much. We call him our Care Bear and that’s what he does. He’s so unselfish. He probably could score so much more than he does. It’s all about his team and obviously super proud of the way he played tonight.”
The Ugly Eagles also got 17 points from Jason Zimmer and 13 from Jeremiah Dargan as they completed a section playoff run that included wins over Heritage, Foothill and Bishop O’Dowd.
Clayton Valley (21-9) did not trail against Dougherty Valley.
There was one tie, 2-2.
“I’m a little speechless right now,” Dargan said. “All our names are going down in the history books for this one. It’s super exciting for all of us.”
The Ugly Eagles maintained a multiple-possession advantage throughout by executing their offense to precision, passing in the half-court until an open player emerged.
When that happened, it resulted in points.
“We had a long summer with hours and hours of practice to perfect the offense,” King said, acknowledging the coaches by adding: “They taught our offense and they taught it well.”
Dougherty Valley (21-6) got good news before the game when Connor Sevilla, the team’s second-leading scorer on the season, was cleared to play after missing a few weeks with a bad thigh bruise. The junior finished with 16 points.
Clayton Valley led 31-19 at halftime and 45-35 after three quarters.
Beasley’s three-point play, followed by his two free throws on Dougherty’s ensuing possession, pulled the Wildcats to within 54-50 with 3:43 left.
That was as close as it would get as Clayton Valley hit one free throw after another down the stretch to maintain the advantage.
At the foul line in the fourth quarter, Clayton Valley was 15 of 19, and Dougherty Valley was 18 of 22.
Dougherty Valley coach Mike Hansen was proud of his team’s effort.
“They’ve gone further than any team in school history,” he said. “It’s emotional. We fought like hell. We tried to pressure them, tried to speed it up. They’re just so big and physical that a half-court set was going to be a long night for us.”
When the game ended, Allocco shared an embrace with his father, who left Northgate after six seasons and won two state championships in 18 years at De La Salle before stepping down in 2015.
“I learned from my father,” said Allocco, who is in his first full season at Clayton Valley after coaching the team during the pandemic-shortened season last spring. “I did this with him for years. He’s the best mentor around. Eric Bamberger, our athletic director, has helped me so much with our offense. I’ve got so many mentors I lean on and I am just thankful for everyone. I am so proud of these guys, man, the way they’ve competed the last half of the season after the schedule I gave them.
Both teams will now wait to see where they’re placed in NorCals. The matchups will be announced Sunday.