Chris Teevan turned the game into a chess match, just as he had promised, sending five fast-action guards at the reigning Valley Oak League champions.
There was just one problem: Sierra coach Scott Thomason owned the biggest piece on the board, 6-foot, 8-inch Joshua Patton.
The King earned his crown, too.
Patton blocked Jaelen Ragsdale’s potential game-tying shot in the final seconds and Weston Ranch missed a wide-open 3-pointer at the buzzer to complete Sierra’s wire-to-wire 53-51 victory on Friday evening at The Den.
The Sacramento State-bound center wore down the Cougars’ under-sized interior, finishing with 16 points, 23 rebounds and five blocked shots.
“We grinded it out. It wasn’t pretty at all. We had to dig deep,” Patton said. “We knew they had the last shot. Daniel (Wyatt) played good defense on Jaelen and I went up and got the block.
“I knew we needed this win. Every time I saw a shot go up I worked my butt off.”
With the win, the Timberwolves (20-2) improved to 9-0 in league with a victory now against each team.
This one wasn’t pretty, though.
Sierra committed 21 turnovers and made just 16 of 30 free-throw attempts, both of which kept Weston Ranch alive.
“We got up by 10 points a couple of times. I thought we needed to show some killer instinct to go put them away right there,” Thomason said. “Obviously, we struggled from the free-throw line. We don’t shoot the ball great. We turn the ball over 100 times in the fourth quarter, and we did whatever we could to let them back in the game. We know we can play better.”
The Cougars (7-2, 14-7) stumble in the league standings, falling to third, two games back of the Timberwolves. Manteca, which handled East Union on Friday, is all alone in second at 8-1.
Teevan isn’t concerned about his team’s position in the title race. His sights are set on clinching a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth and chasing a much bigger prize – a section title.
After a long post-game discussion with his team about “getting better from this (loss),” the third-year coach emerged with a hoodie pulled over his head, seemingly unfazed.
“I don’t care about league titles. I don’t care about any certain amount of wins,” Teevan said. “I care about section titles and if we have to go through Sierra, we have to go through Sierra.”
The Sierra student section spilled onto the floor following the final buzzer, serenading its boys basketball team following one of the more dramatic, fun-filled finishes of the season.
The Timberwolves led by 10 following a pair of free throws by Jess Spivey with 3:38 remaining, but the never-say-die Cougars clawed back into the game with a suffocating full-court press.
With its guards jumping into passing lanes and swiping at the ball, Weston Ranch pieced together a 12-3 run, highlighted by Fred Lavender’s reverse layup and Ragsdale’s three-point play with 26.6 seconds left that made it 53-51
Sierra turned the ball over eight times in the quarter, and its last with less than 20 seconds left in the game nearly cost it sole possession of first place in the VOL.
“A lot of their points were on us. We can’t give them permission to do that. We have to value the basketball,” Thomason said. “If we did that and made our free throws we know this would have been a different game.”
With the clock winding down, all eyes were trained on Ragsdale who missed a similar chance hard off the backboard in the final seconds of last year’s game at Sierra.
This time, his shot never came close to rim.
With Daniel Wyatt stuck to his hip, Ragsdale drove to his right and let loose with floater across his body. Patton met the ball at its peak, deflecting it out of bounds.
For a split-second, there was confusion on the floor. Was the game over? The scoreboard clock flashed “00s,” but a referee ordered eight-tenths of a second be put on the clock.
That was just enough time for Josh Dilg (10 points) to get a good look at the basket. He bunkered down in the corner, collected the in-bounds pass and let loose with a 3 in time.
The ball skipped off the rim, cueing a blue and silver celebration.
Weston Ranch had just two 3-pointers, both by Jazz Swanson.
Lavender had 16 points and five rebounds, including seven straight to close the third quarter, cutting Sierra’s 11-point lead to 37-33. He fouled out with 49.6 seconds left, giving Teevan one less option at the buzzer.
The shot was always going to Ragsdale, though. The junior point guard finished with 16 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Teevan isn’t concerned about his star guard’s psyche following two heart-breaking losses at The Den.
“Confidence comes from preparation and he prepares harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” Teevan said. “So, no, I’m not worried about his psyche at all. He’s a leader; a young man, not a boy.”
Devin Nunez had 10 points and a banked in 3-pointer to make it 47-37 with 4:33 left. Hunter Johnson finished with nine points and Spivey had eight for the Timberwolves, who go on the road for three of their last five games, including stops at Central Catholic, Manteca and Weston Ranch.
Weston Ranch 48
The Timberwolves had four players in double figures led by Parmvir Singh (18 points) and Jamille Grady (17).
Weston Ranch 53
Jaime Ochoa erupted for 20 points and J.T. Ortiz Martinez and Andrew Olivaz had 13 apiece for Sierra.