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COMMAND AND CONQUER

Press defense, scoring balance help Sierra crush Johansen

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COMMAND AND CONQUER

Sierra’s Eric Melgar soars through the lane in front of Johansen defenders Isaiah Robinson and Ninb Odisho.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 15, 2012 12:28 a.m.

Defense and rebounding has long been the staple of Sierra’s success, but so far this season the offense has been inconsistent.

Coach Scott Thomason hopes Friday’s 69-46 win over visiting Johansen helps remedy his team’s early struggles. The Timberwolves (6-2) scored 17 unanswered points behind a stifling full-court press that forced 11 turnovers in the third quarter, turning what was a 35-28 halftime lead into a 54-33 cushion heading into the fourth.

“That third quarter may have been the best basketball we’ve played,” Thomason said, crediting the defense for sparking the attack. Sierra has held opponents to under 50 points in all six of its victories.

“The press allowed us to make easier buckets, which helped us get into a flow on offense,” Sierra guard Eric Melgar said. He was one of three Timberwolves to finish in double figures, nailing three 3-pointers and ending up with 16 points.

“It was nice to get the chemistry going,” Melgar added. “Hopefully, we can take it to the next game and go from there.”

Guillermo Nunez led all players with 23 points, getting most of his points with mid-range jumpers and nifty drives. Emmanuel Elijah added 10 points, and Justin Patton contributed nine to go with six rebounds and four steals.

Sierra went inside to Patton and center Jonnythan Munkholm often in the first half. Though they combined for just eight points over the first two quarters, the post tandem — along with scrappy reserve D’Ari Allen — made undersized Johansen (2-5) focus its defensive efforts on the paint. That allowed Melgar and Nunez to take over, as they accounted for 17 of the team’s 22 points in the second quarter.

Sierra also controlled the boards, outrebounding Johansen, 30-17.

“We have good posts, and when we’re able to hit open shots (from the perimeter) it’s hard to guard us,” Melgar said.

Johansen, to its credit, showed fight in the first half every time the Timberwolves went on a run. Sierra opened the game with an 11-0 flurry, but the Vikings — who didn’t score until Ninb Odisho converted a layup with 2:50 left — only trailed 13-7 after Chantz Sabaniano’s buzzer-beating 3.

Johansen caught fire from behind the arc in the second period, allowing it to stay within range. Edward Chavez (13 points) buried all four of his 3-pointers in the second, and the Vikings finished with 10 total 3s.

“We had chances to break it open but got too comfortable,” Thomason said. “We gave too much help (in the paint on defense) instead of matching up with their guards, and that gave them wide-open shots. I was a little disappointed with the lead we had in halftime.”

But not so disappointed by the end of the game.

“We had good (offensive) balance, we played as a team today, we competed at a high level and our shooting was a lot better that it has been,” Thomason said. “I’m real proud of the guys tonight.

“Johansen is a good team; they scrap, they compete and they’re well coached. We just made them look bad tonight with the way we played.”

Sierra will be well tested next week by Lodi on the road Tuesday and Golden Valley at home on Dec. 21.

Sophomore

Sierra 77, Johansen 27

Thirteen of 14 Timberwolves scored led by 11 points each from Hunter Johnson and Devin Nunez 11.points. Joshua Patton pitched in with 10.

Freshman

Sierra 69, Johansen 18

Brian Terrell poured in 14 points, and Josh Spivey contributed 11 in Sierra’s blowout victory.

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