The Sierra High boys basketball team has a 6-foot, 8-inch, rim-rocking, shot-blocking star.
Maybe you’ve heard of him.
On Tuesday evening, suffocated and sometimes mauled by Oakdale’s interior defense, Joshua Patton was just a footnote in the Timberwolves’ 60-36 victory.
Instead, the floor belonged to Sierra’s underrated but highly explosive guards.
Daniel Wyatt scored a team-high 19 points, Devin Nunez dished out nine assists and the Timberwolves used a 22-0 spurt in the second quarter to pull away from the undermanned Mustangs in their Valley Oak League opener.
“You have to have balance, especially if you want to beat really good teams. We’ll take what the defense gives us. Today, they gave us perimeter shots,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said. “Our guards are better than people think. Devin is the most underrated player in this league. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. (Wyatt) is starting to play very good lately. … We have good balance, and we’ll continue to do that.”
The Timberwolves improved to an area-best 12-1 and have now won eight straight games. There’s been an underlying theme to each of those victories, too.
Sierra might be led by Patton, an emerging big man who will only get bigger, taller and stronger as the year progresses, but it is powered by a team-first brand of basketball.
Forced to pick its poison – would they take their chances with a 6-foot-2 post on Patton, or throw multiple defenders his way? – Oakdale (3-7, 0-1) proved nothing more than a sacrificial lamb.
The Mustangs chose Option A and bunkered down on the low block, opening up the shooting lanes around the 3-point line.
The Timberwolves connected on eight 3-pointers, doled out assists on seven of its nine second-half field goals, committed just five turnovers in the final three quarters and outscored the Mustangs 40-15 during a 16-minute span.
Patton finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. He scored the first nine for Sierra, which began the game icy cold from the perimeter.
Hunter Johnson (seven rebounds) and Ogun Delaney chipped in six points, and Jakob Gallagher and Nunez finished with five points apiece for the Timberwolves.
Wyatt knocked down three 3s, Delaney had two, while Gallagher, Nunez and Jess Spivey (four points) each had one.
“They’re a tough team to defend when they’re hitting those shots, inside and out,” Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields said. “We know they have good shooters, but they also have 6-8 guy when our biggest guy is 6-2. We’ll take our chances from 22 feet rather than 2, when we can.
“They did good job of executing in that second and third quarter. At some point you have to come out and guard them, and when you do, they go right back inside. So they did a nice job.”
Wyatt highlighted a decisive 22-0 spurt in the second quarter with 10 points.
The junior guard scored from all angles and all speeds. He had two 3s from the top of the arc and a double-clutch lay-up in traffic as the Timberwolves raced by Oakdale.
“We had to deliver a blow,” Wyatt said. “We just tried to do the best we could.”
Thomason says the bouncy 5-10 guard is starting to hit his stride after a frustrating start to the season. In the last two games, Wyatt has been the team’s top scorer, averaging 17 points.
“He’s making better decisions right now, being more fundamentally sound and more in rhythm with his shot. He’s made the minor adjustments and he’s being more coachable right now,” Thomason said. “He’s starting to hit shots from the outside. With how quick and explosive he is to the basket, if he can make outside shots that’s going to make him even more dangerous to guard.
“You see how athletic and explosive he can be. He gets his hands on the ball defensively. He runs the fastbreak. He’s a good passer. He’s starting to play with confidence and it’s only going to make us a better team.”
Sierra is at East Union on Thursday. The Lancers lost to Kimball on Tuesday, 46-43.
Oakdale 44, Sierra 31
Jamille Grady had 13 points and Noah Alt chipped in with 12, but Sierra couldn’t hold onto an early nine-point lead. Oakdale trailed 13-4 after the first quarter, thanks in large part to three 3-pointers by Grady, but outscored the Timberwolves 40-18 the rest of the way.