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Cougars crossing fingers after season-ending win
Weston Ranch forward Emoni Wilson feels the pressure in the crowded key as Sierra’s Jordan Johnson goes in for the steal. - photo by Photo by CHRIS LEONARD

The Weston Ranch girls basketball team did its part.

Now the Cougars are in wait-and-see mode with fingers crossed after dispatching host Sierra 54-42 in the Valley Oak League finale Thursday.

At No. 18, Weston Ranch (9-7, 16-11 overall) is on the bubble according to the Sac-Joaquin Section’s final release of its Division III playoff power ratings. Sixteen teams qualify, and losses to some of the teams ahead of the Cougars may help their cause. League rival Oakdale, which is 11th, lost to Weston Ranch Tuesday and Sonora Thursday to end the regular season.

“We won’t know for sure until Sunday afternoon (when the playoff brackets are unveiled), but I think we’re in,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer said. “The kids are pretty excited about the possibility. We treated the last week like it was the playoffs for us, and we came out and played well against both Oakdale and Sierra.”

Weston Ranch caught fire early and shot ahead 21-5 in the first quarter. Sierra (7-9, 12-14) battled back and closed the gap to six points in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars had one more big rally left in the tank to pull away for good.

Weston Ranch hit four of its nine 3-pointers in the fourth period, and all nine of them were converted by senior Courtney Duran and Timnesha Wilson. Duran poured in 20 points and six 3-pointers while pulling down nine rebounds. Wilson added 16 points and nine assists.

The Timberwolves did a good job of containing 5-foot-11 sophomore center Jazmin Strane (nine points) in the paint, but Weston Ranch made them pay from the perimeter.

“They were hot from the outside and we missed a lot of free throws,” said Sierra coach Steve Unterholzner, whose team shot 7 for 23 from the charity stripe. “Our girls showed a lot of heart and didn’t give up. They just started dropping in 3’s, and it’s hard to trade a 2 for a 3.”

Sierra senior center Jaslynn Liotard went out with a bang, finishing with 15 points. Alysia Atkins, Jordan Johnson and Stephanie Vanni each turned in six.

Sierra struggled to get going offensively with starting point guard Jasmine Currimao out with a knee sprain.

Despite the season-ending loss, Unterholzner was encouraged by the progress made after the team dropped its first four contest of the non-league season. And with only three seniors graduating, Unterholzner likes his team’s chances to qualify for the playoffs next year.

“It’s a young team, and the seniors we do have weren’t all that experienced at the varsity level,” Unterholzner said. “It took us a few games to get our feet under us, and after that we only got blown out twice and played a lot of good teams tough. We’re looking forward to next year.”

— Jonamar Jacinto