Sure enough, another VOL member awaits.
Third-seeded Central Catholic (23-8) defends its section title against the Cougars, who hope a victory is good enough to earn a spot in the CIF State Open Division Championships.
“We run through league and we have to play Sierra and Manteca again,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan said after his top-seeded squad beat Manteca 67-53 in the semifinal round Wednesday night. “We also took the league title from Central Catholic and we’re going to see them a third time. It’s like we have to reprove ourselves all over again.”
The Cougars’ resumé speaks for itself.
They went into the postseason ranked third in Northern California by MaxPreps and NorCalPreps behind undefeated Salesian of Richmond and Sacramento powerhouse Sheldon. Their only defeat came against San Jose juggernaut Archbishop Mitty, 58-45, back on Nov. 29.
Weston Ranch has won 29 straight since, claiming titles in the McDonald’s Classic and prestigious Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic. It also beat tradition-rich Sacramento schools Capital Christian and Grant in one-day showcases. Grant finished as the SJS runner-up in Division II. The Cougars also notched an impressive 56-53 win at San Leandro, the North Coast Section’s Division I runner-up.
They held on for a 61-56 win in their first showdown against Central Catholic. The rematch at Central’s Mark Gallo Health & Fitness Center wasn’t close — a 61-39 trouncing despite Gavin Wilburn scoring only one point. The multi-faceted 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior is Weston Ranch’s top player who averaged 11.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists in the regular season.
What has made these Cougars special is their balance and versatility. Sophomores Donjaé Lindsey (15.3 points) and Mi’Son Coilton (9.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 steals) are enjoying breakout seasons, but seniors such as Devin Small (9.9 points) and Raul Melgarejo (3.9 points, 3.3 rebounds) continue to remain productive.
Meanwhile, unsung junior guards Titus Haley and Lydell King are capable of hitting big shots while providing scrappy perimeter defense.
Central Catholic is a on a six-game winning streak since its latest loss to the Ranch. The Raiders fended off Del Campo 70-63 and El Camino 47-45 in near-upsets before crushing No. 2 Wood 55-38 in the semifinals.
They are led by 6-7 sophomore Miles Clayton, who averages 14 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks. Guards Justin Traina (14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals) and Dayton Magana (12.9 points, 2.9 assists) along with Charles Hallmon (7.0 points, 6.8 rebounds) and D’Angelo Bellamy (5.9 points, 6.8 rebounds) are other key contributors.
It will be the third time in five years that the section has had an all-VOL finale in Division III. Sierra beat Weston Ranch 67-51 in 2015, but the later returned the following year to claim their blue banner with a 69-57 win over Manteca.
Central Catholic upended Beyer 66-56 in last year’s Division III final and squeaked out hard-fought wins against West Campus to garner the Division IV crown in 2016 and 2017.
All semifinalists in in the SJS Division I-V playoffs have qualified for the NorCal Regionals, which begin next Tuesday. Brackets will be revealed Sunday night.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Weston Ranch vs. Central Catholic
WHAT: Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final
WHEN: Today, 4 p.m.
WHERE: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
ADMISSION: Kings Row I ($37), Kings Row II ($32), Kings Row III ($26), Adults general ($17), high school students with ID ($10), children 2 and older ($10), children under 2 (free).