SACRAMENTO — Defense wins championships.
That was apparent for the Weston Ranch High Cougars in their 67-42 win Saturday over familiar foe Central Catholic for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III crown at the Golden 1 Center.
"Our original game plan was to keep No. 10 (Justin Traina) from getting off his shots and try to contain (Dayton Magana)," said Gavin Wilburn, who put together another all-around game.
Weston Ranch, for the most part, did just that.
Traina, who torched the Cougars for 20 points in that first meeting — a hard-fought 5-point victory for Weston Ranch during the first go-around on Jan. 10 (the Cougars won handily in the recent Valley Oak League rematch, 61-39) — was held to a single field goal while finishing with five points.
Magana, the Raiders' fierce point guard, did finish with a game-high 18 points but was unable to get the rest of his team involved. Myles Clayton, Central Catholic's 6-foot-7 sophomore, and 6-2 senior forward D'Angelo Bellamy, like Traina, were both held to one basket while finishing with six points each.
As a team, the Raiders shot 13 of 48 from the field and were just 1 of 9 from 3-point range.
"We made a couple of adjustment at halftime," said Weston Ranch assistant coach Eddie Menzel.
He's the defensive architect of the team, according to head coach Chris Teevan.
The two celebrated their second D-III section title in four years. This team was different than that of the senior-laden 2016 squad.
Raul Melgarejo, who, outside of the starters, saw plenty of action this year, was a freshman back then. He was brought up to varsity the following year, Teevan said.
Melgarejo and fellow senior Da'Quan Kelly made valuable contributions coming off the bench against Central Catholic.
The 6-3 Melgarejo nailed a 3 and grabbed a pair of defensive boards while the 6-4 Kelly scored on a put-back early in the fourth, capping off his game in which he had two blocks and a pair of rebounds.
Devin Small is also a senior. He transferred a year ago and, in the section title game, finished with 13 points including two key 3s, two steals, and two defensive rebounds.
The Cougars are young but play beyond their years.
"We're a young team. But age doesn't matter in basketball, especially when most of our guys play year-around," said Teevan, praising their combined high basketball IQs.
Wilburn and guard Titus Haley are both juniors. Mi'Son Coilton, who had an impressive double-double against the Raiders (15 points, 12 rebounds) are sophomores.
The offensive side of the game took care of itself in the title game.
Weston Ranch got off to a sluggish start in this stylish and still rather new NBA arena and home of the Sacramento Kings.
For awhile, the Raiders had that third-times-a-charm victory hope when Traina took advantage of a size mismatch for his only basket from the field.
Central Catholic had surged out to an 11-6 lead midway through the first.
The Cougars, however, appeared unfazed.
They found their groove and put together a 17-6 run.
Weston Ranch opened the game shooting a woeful 1 for 5 from beyond the arc, but made up for that by hitting 9 of 16 by game's end, finishing 10 of 21 in 3s.
As for Wilburn, he spearheaded the defense by frustrating the Raiders' big men from coming inside. He's listed at 6-3 but plays bigger than that.
Teevan said on numerous occasions that Wilburn doesn't have to score — offense is only one facet of his game.
He did have shot-clock-beating-follow-up dunk in third quarter, and had a block, a steal, a couple of assists and eight boards including six on the defensive side. He also finished with 11 points.
Weston Ranch High opened in 2003. The basketball program has been the crowned jewel since then, compiling six VOL titles and two section crowns.
Teevan and company are hoping to add more to that list with the NorCals being right around the corner.
To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail email@example.com.