MODESTO — A disastrous start to its regular-season finale Thursday at Johansen did not keep Lathrop from clinching a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
The Spartans could not get shots to drop, and frustrations began to mount as they had to work through foul trouble. They trailed 17-2 after the first quarter.
“We were not playing well,” Lathrop coach Craig Ward said, “but these guys dug deep and said we are not going down like this.”
They rallied for a 58-49 win, outscoring the Vikings 23-9 in the final period. Lathrop (9-5, 17-9 overall) assured itself the third and final automatic postseason berth in the Western Athletic Conference. A loss would have dropped the Spartans into a third-place tie with Los Banos and forced an all-or-nothing rubber game since they split their regular-season contests.
“Controlling your own destiny is so much better than sitting at home waiting for another team to lose,” Ward said.
He attributed the win to senior leadership. Point guard Amiel Adams did it on both ends of the court, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. Noah Urbina-Thierry spent most of his time benched with foul trouble and was limited to six points, but he hit two long-range 3s in the final minutes to help get the Spartans over the hump.
“Amiel Adams played tremendous defense toward the end of the game, and for Noah to come in cold and hit two big (Stephen) Curry 3s was huge,” Ward said. “We were down four with about 3 minutes left, and just like that we were up eight.”
Sophomores Eddie Cotton and C.J. Ward also keyed the win. Cotton contributed with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while C.J. Ward had 10 points and 10 boards before fouling out. Kimallen Perilla poured in 10 points off the bench.
Luis Osorio tallied 13 points for shorthanded Johansen (5-9, 8-16), which suited up seven players.
“I figured we’d wear them down having only seven players, but they were busting their butts until the end so I have to commend them,” coach Ward said.
Postseason brackets will be released by the section on Saturday.
Weston Ranch 54, Sierra 36
John Elijah did all he could to keep the host Timberwolves (3-9, 15-11) in the hunt against the Valley Oak League champion.
The senior forward accounted for all 12 of Sierra’s first-half points and scored its first 15 in all before ending with a game-high 17. Weston Ranch (12-0, 27-1) was too much, however, leading 28-12 at halftime and cruising to its 26th consecutive victory.
Donjaé Lindsey tallied 11 points and five assists for the balanced Cougars. Devin Small added 10 points and six rebounds, while Gavin Wilburn (eight rebounds) and Mi’Son Coilton scored eight apiece.
Kendrick Currey contributed 14 points for Sierra.