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EASY AS 1-2-3
Sierra sweeps season series with Sonora
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Sierra center Will Ward tries to rise above Sonora defender Mark Relei for a shot in the paint. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

It’s supposed to be tough to beat good teams three times in a season.

Sierra’s boys basketball team just made it look easy.

The Timberwolves swept their season series with visiting Sonora Tuesday, rolling to a 53-29 victory while extending their torrid win streak to 18.

Sierra — now 9-0 in the Valley Oak League (19-2 overall) — previously drubbed Sonora 51-24 in championship round of the Fuchs Memorial Holiday Classic at Columbia College on Dec. 30. Just four days later, Sonora (5-4, 12-8) was more competitive in its league-opening showdown with Sierra but ultimately fell, 60-46.

So how has Sierra been so effective against longtime coach Rick Francis’ disciplined Wildcats this season?

“Well, they’re well coached, for one,” he said. “They have the inside game, they have the outside game and if you try and take away one thing they’ll hurt you with something else.

“They’ve got the whole package. When you have all those pieces you’re going to be hard to beat.”

What makes Sierra’s latest win all the more impressive was that it didn’t have all of its pieces available. Justin Patton, a wiry 6-foot, 3-inch forward, was out sick, and point guard Guillermo Nunez was clearly not himself while battling through an illness Tuesday.

There was no apparent drop-off in play, as Sierra opened on a 14-1 run.

“(Patton’s absence) worried me a little bit because of their size, but we’re a no-excuse basketball team,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said. “Every team is going through it right now, too. We are going to compete with what we have, and we’re fortunate to have some depth.”

Will Ward picked up the slack with help from usual reserves D’Ari Allen (six rebounds) and Bret Wilson (seven rebounds), who both shined in their expanded roles and effectively negated Sonora’s height advantage with their energy. Ward, a 6-5 center, finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Joseph Berry added 11 points, including three 3-pointers to keep Sonora from staying in its 1-3-1 zone defense. He and Ward found another way to take advantage of the zone. Early in the second quarter, Berry delivered an alley-oop pass from the wing and Ward flushed it down with two hands for the first of his two dunks.

Sonora started with a frontcourt of 6-8 Taylor Thompson (seven points, one rebound), 6-6 Mark Relei (one point, one rebound) and 6-6 Ben Bates (four points, three rebounds). Nick Mays came off the bench to pace the Wildcats with eight points and four rebounds.

All told, Sierra won the battle of the boards by a landslide, 37-17.

“Our goal is to win the rebounding battle every night with a plus-six (margin),” Thomason said. “Only twice this year we have we not met that goal and both were against Sonora. Tonight, we did a much better job of that.”

Sophomore

Sierra 56, Sonora 55

Jonnythan Munkholm drained the game-winning shot with about 17 seconds remaining, and Sierra (6-3) clutched up defensively to hold on for the win.

Devin Nunez scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, when he also buried three of his four 3-pointers. Carlos Quintanilla poured in 15 points, and Bryson Sanders finished with 12.

Freshman

Sonora 51, Sierra 47

The Timberwolves (7-2, 14-3) started the night in a three-way tie for first place with Manteca and Kimball. They went on a 17-4 run in the second quarter to lead 30-24 at half but succumbed to Sonora’s press.

Jakob Gallagher and Jordan Thompson led Sierra with 13 points apiece.