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Frozen from the field

Ice cold Sierra knocked off by Central Valley

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Frozen from the field

Central Valley guard Deavon Brown emerged as a closer for the No. 11 seed, taking the reins of the offense in the final moments of the first, second and fourth quarters in the Hawk’s 60-43 victory ...


POSTED February 27, 2014 12:39 a.m.

The knot on his tie had been pulled loose. The top button of his shirt unclipped.

Sierra coach Scott Thomason emerged from his office with the look of a man searching for answers, but the reasons for Wednesday’s 60-43 loss to Central Valley in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III tournament were easy to pin-point.

His sixth-seeded Timberwolves simply couldn’t make a shot outside of 15 feet. Not from the free-throw line. And certainly not from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Timberwolves were 8 of 21 from the free-throw line, including 4 of 13 in the second half, and their top marksmen were 0-fer from long range.

Meanwhile, Central Valley, playing with a confidence and swagger that belied its No. 11 seed and lack of playoff experience, enjoyed a historic shooting performance.

The Hawks built a 14-point first-quarter lead on the strength of seven 3-pointers and then closed the game on a 13-2 run to earn the school’s first playoff victory.

“We shot the ball terribly,” Thomason said matter-of-factly. “We had a chance to come back and we missed every free throw. It’s hard to win games when you’re doing that.

“We got down 25-11. They hit some tough 3s in that first quarter and they got on a bit of a hot streak there. We showed some fight in the second quarter and cut (the deficit) to two in the third, but after that…

“We couldn’t make free throws. Couldn’t make an outside shot. So they had more balance than us; a better outside-inside game than us.”

Four players scored in double figures for Central Valley (22-6), which led wire-to-wire and snapped the Timberwolves’ streak of consecutive section final appearances at two. And the visiting Hawks weren’t subtle in celebration.

As the seconds ticked down on Sierra’s season, the Central Valley crowd taunted the Timberwolves’ student section with chants of “No more Arco,” the site of the section’s championship games.

Jaron Dickson and Deavon Brown led the onslaught, finishing with 15 points apiece and an array of back-breaking shots.

“It was contagious. Just like practice,” Brown said. “Who could shoot better from the outside?”

Dickson set the tone with three first-quarter 3s from virtually the same spot on the floor: Top of the arc, hand in his face.

Then it was Brown’s turn. The junior emerged as Central Valley’s closer, taking the reins of the offense in the final moments of the first, second and fourth quarters.

He knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to close out a 25-point first quarter.

His smooth fadeaway jumper from the free-throw line – over the reach of the 6-foot-2 Bryson Sanders – sent Central Valley racing into the halftime break ahead 41-32.

And in the fourth, as Sierra turned toward desperation, Brown buried the three-time Valley Oak League champions with back-to-back pull-up jumpers – one from each elbow.

He had five points during Central Valley’s finishing kick, a 13-2 run over the final 2 minutes, 28 seconds.

“We had nothing to lose. We said we’re going to play and take our shots and do the things that we do,”  Central Valley coach Darryl Dickson said. “When Jaron got going early and hit one or two 3s and then Brown came in and got few, it was like ‘OK, we’ve come to play.’”

Sierra was uncharacteristically cold on home rims.

The Timberwolves connected on just one 3-pointer – a first quarter trey from Sanders.

Point guard Devin Nunez had been Sierra’s most consistent 3-point shooter all season long. The junior was held without a field goal and his only point came on a free throw with 3 minutes left in the game.

“It was just a bad night, and the unfortunate part is that it happened in a playoff game,” Thomason said. “ I didn’t expect Devin to shoot the way he did. That’s our best shooter all year and he doesn’t make one bucket? That’s tough.”

Joshua Patton and Hunter Johnson (16 points, 11 rebounds) did their best to clean up Sierra’s misses.

Patton finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, and was a central figure in Sierra’ 13-4 run in the second quarter.

The 6-foot-7 junior had seven points, three blocked shots and two dunks as the Timberwolves trimmed the deficit to five, 29-24, just before the half. He later had another two-handed flush that helped Sierra pull within two, 33-31, in the third.

That’s as close as they would get, though.

The silver-lining for the Timberwolves is that they graduate just four players, just one of which is a starter (Sanders).

Patton, Johnson and Nunez give Thomason hope for a prolonged playoff run next season.

“We’re going to have a good offseason. Hopefully the guys will be motivated by this – I know they will be,” Thomason said. “We got guys that love the game of basketball.

“We got a good nucleus, but we got to work harder.”

And pray the shots fall.

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