After trailing by as much as 15 points earlier in the fourth quarter, Sierra gave itself a shot in the end but ultimately came up short against visiting Kimball 64-55 in the Valley Oak League opener for both teams on Thursday.
The Timberwolves (0-1, 8-6 overall), who dropped their third straight, twice cut the deficit to five, first with David Kakala’s 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to make it, 58-53. Zach Curry kept them in the hunt with a tip-in bucket and was fouled on the play, but he could not convert on the free throw as Sierra was hit by a lane violation.
Kimball (1-0, 9-8) immediately answered with John Harris’ breakaway dunk set up by Will Obiajulu, who then blocked a shot on the other end to secure the win.
Curry was instrumental in leading Sierra’s second-half comeback. Normally a starter, the junior guard missed recent practices because of an illness did not check into the game until halfway through the third quarter.
“He’s definitely one of our best players and he not playing really hurt us in the first half, but we have our rules,” Sierra coach Eddie Morales said. “I just don’t think we played well at all in the first half, we were a little stagnant. It’s hard to come back in the end against these teams, especially in a league where everybody is good.”
Kimball has won three of the last four against Sierra, which claimed the first 15 meetings with the Jags.
Curry finished with six points, five rebounds and three steals in his limited time. Kendrick Currey tried to pick up the slack, scoring seven of his 16 points in the opening quarter. Ryan Borgeson also scored 16 points and made three 3s.
The score was 12-12 at the end of the first quarter with Currey carrying the load.
“We need him to score, he’s our best player,” Morales said. “He’s just trying to be aggressive. He’s a little banged up right now so I know he had some stuff that he normally finishes not go down, but we need for him to be an all-league guy for us.”
While Sierra continues to rely on its veteran guards to produce, Morales said he is still lacking a consistent presence in the post. The Timberwolves had no answer for the bigger and more active Jaguars down low. Harris ended up with 16 points and six rebounds, while 6-foot-5 center John Sarmiento added 10 points 12 boards.
Off guard Tyre Richardson paced Kimball with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Kobe Harris contributed 10 points off the bench and buried two key 3s late in the third period that helped the Jags take a 49-36 lead into the fourth.
Two 8-0 runs in the first half helped Kimball gain separation. Sierra was outrebounded, 36-28.
“Their big guys are pretty good,” Morales said. “Defending the post and rebounding have been a weakness all year for us. We had chances to get stops at the end but couldn’t get rebounds.
“We need to grind a little bit, be a little tougher. We have a lot of capable guys, we just need someone to step up.”
Sierra won’t play on its home floor again for two weeks. The T’wolves head to Turlock for a non-league tilt on Saturday before three straight league road games.