STOCKTON — Weston Ranch and reigning Valley Oak League champion Central Catholic slugged it out like a pair of heavyweight fighters Thursday.
Chris Teevan described it as that following his Cougars' 61-56 decision over the visiting Raiders in this much-anticipated first-place clash.
"There times when it seemed as if we were on the verge of going for the knockout," the Weston Ranch coach said.
Perhaps no one struck a harder blow than Gavin Wilburn.
Battling Central Catholic's big men — most notably, 6-foot-7 sophomore Myles Clayton and 6-5 senior Charles Hallmon — he was having a tough night, offensively.
"Gavin does so much for our team. He doesn't have to score," Teevan said.
An all-around 6-3 junior, Wilburn, who had six rebounds, three blocks and three steals, admitted being frustrated after missing shots he normally makes.
"I missed layups and free throws," he said. "(Central Catholic) is the one of the only teams that can play us man-to-man (on defense)."
That all changed at the 1:27 mark in the third quarter. Wilburn soared high off a teammate's missed shot and delivered a crushing two-handed slam dunk, causing the Raiders to call a timeout and his teammates rushing him near mid-court to celebrate the moment.
Still, Central Catholic came back with a flurry of an attack led by Clayton, D'Angelo Bellamy and Justin Traina, who capped the 21-8 run in the fourth quarter with a game-tying steal going into the final minute.
Knotted up at 56-56, Weston Ranch (3-0 VOL, 16-1 overall) turned to its defense. Titus Haley and Donjaé Lindsey forced a pair of turnovers.
Lindsey and Wilburn iced the game by hitting their free throws.
Wilburn was 5 of 6 from the line during that crucial stretch, finishing with 11 points.
Lindsey and Devin Small produced most of the offense early on.
Small hit three 3s in the first half, scoring all of his 13 points in that span.
Lindsey, who finished with a game-high 22 points, netted 12 in the second quarter while helping his team to a 30-16 lead.
Central Catholic (3-1, 12-7) answered back with an 8-2, with Traina, who finished with 20 points, sinking a buzzer-beating trey to end the half.
The Cougars put together another strong run in the third highlighted by Wilburn's follow-up slam and Lydell King's quarter-ending 3.
Weston Ranch took a 48-35 advantage into the fourth only to see the Raiders battle back for the tie.
Teevan was proud to his team maintain its composure during a hard-fought battle.
The Cougars, according to Cal-Hi Sports, came in as the No. 20th-ranked team in the state and No. 5 in Northern California.
Sierra 67, Oakdale 35
The Timberwolves (3-1, 15-3) used a balanced attack in their VOL rout over the visiting Mustangs (0-3, 13-5).
Kendrick Currey led the way, hitting for a game-high 16 points. Zachariah Curry and John Elijah both added 11. Eduardo Jasso chipped with seven.
As a team, Sierra hit seven 3s.
The Timberwolves let from the start, jumping out to a 21-5 first-quarter lead, building that up to 41-13 at the half.
Kimball 71, East Union 59
At Dalben Center, the Jaguars (1-3, 9-10) put together a strong fourth while outlasting the Lancers (1-4, 10-11)
The game stayed even for the better part of three quarter, and was knotted up at 40-40 at the intermission.
Kimball led 55-52 going into the fourth, outscoring East Union from that point on, 16-7.
Christian Cuevas was the Lancers' top scorer with 24 points.
Kimball 65, East Union 50
Luke Weaver flirted with a double-double for the Lancers with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Zach McCasland added 10 points, Gavin Silva eight and Samuel Stewart seven. Nate Rodriguez chipped in five steals.