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Senior-laden Cougars hope to go out on top
Weston Ranch standout Dylan Alexander drives to the hoop in a league game at Lathrop on Feb. 4, 2012. - photo by HIME ROMERO


2011: 14-0 VOL, 27-4 overall. VOL Champions, lost in SJS D-III finals to Foothill.

Coaches: Scott Thomason (head), Leo Griggs (assistant), Eddie Morales (sophomore), Justin Muschott (freshman).

Notable returners: Guillermo Nunez (guard, 12th), Emmanuel Elijah (guard, 12th), Justin Patton (forward, 12th).

Outlook: The defending Valley Oak League champions and Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III runner-up will take things one step at a time in defending their VOL title. The Timberwolves will be led by three-year varsity starter Guillermo Nunez, who symbolizes the team’s one game at a time approach.


2011: 8-6 VOL, 16-11 overall. Closed out the season with a playoff lost to Lindhurst in the first round.

Coaches: Brett Lewis (head), Charles Legan (assistant), Colt Lee (assistant), Steve Barrera (assistant), Jeff Lund (sophomore), Jerry Barajas (freshman).

Notable returners: Justin Nieto (guard, 12th), Jacob Danhoff (forward, 11th), Jordan Kron (guard, 12th), Robbie Gleockler (guard, junior)

Notable newcomers: Aaron Ramos (guard, 12th), Clay Cuneo (forward, 11th).

Outlook: The Lancers closed out last season as one of the hottest clubs in the Valley Oak League, winning their final six games to help land a 12th seed in the SJS Division IV playoffs. East Union will reap the benefits of Justin Nieto and Jacob Danhoff’s playing experience and leadership as well as the return of senior Jordan Kron who started for the Lancers as a freshman, but sat out his junior season.


2011: 7-7 VOL, 14-12 overall. Lathrop High earned its first postseason berth last season, a 68-52 first round loss to Encina Prep.

Coaches: Bill Slikker (head), Nate McGrath (assistant), Charles Roth (sophomore), Eric Bacca, Will Ward.

Top returners: Robert Orantes (guard, 12th), Gustavo Contreras (guard, 12th), Mikey Pereznegron (guard, 12th).

Top newcomers: TJ Conley, Isaiah Ellis, Eric Spencer, Robert Heggie.

Outlook: Lathrop made huge strides last season after VOL championship coach Bill Slikker took over the reins of the program. The team made the first-ever SJS postseason berth and returns four seniors from the team a season ago. What the Spartans feel they will lack in size, the squad hopes to make up with in speed.


2011: 10-4 VOL, 19-9 overall. After posting a runner-up finish in the VOL the Cougars dropped the SJS playoff opener to Vista del Lago 72-71.

Coaches: Christopher Teevan (head), Gabe Da Rosa (assistant), Ryan Tarr (sophomore), Ernie Pimental (frosh).

Top returners: Dylan Alexander (guard, 12th), Daiveon Leverett (forward, 12th), Felix Buenrostro (guard, 12th).

Top newcomers: Eric Duncan (guard, 12th)

Outlook: First year head coach Christopher Teevan takes over a program that made it to the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason, but saw the season as a failure. Teevan will have the benefit of nine seniors to depend on as well as returning All-VOL standouts Dylan Alexander and Daiveon Leverett. New transfer Eric Duncan will likely give the Cougars the best starting rotation in the VOL.


2011: 3-11 VOL, 10-17 overall. The Buffaloes struggled throughout the 2011 VOL season, finishing ahead of only Oakdale in the standings.

Coaches: Dave Asuncion (head).

Top returners: Rodney Fryer (guard, 12th), Austin Haro (guard, 12th), Nick Burrows (forward, 11th).

Top newcomers: Alex Jorgensen (guard, 11th), Michael Hatfield (guard, 11th).

Outlook: The Manteca Buffaloes should not have too much trouble improving on last season’s accomplishments, bringing back a core group of returners to combine with talent from the sophomore ranks.


2011: 8-4 TVL, 19-13 overall. Ripon finished third in the Trans Valley League and runner-up in the SJS Division IV championship game against Modesto Christian.

Coaches: Rod Wright (head), Greg Jordan (sophomore), Michael Merchant (freshman).

Top returners: Cole Herrin (guard, 12th), Kyle Wengel (guard, 12th), Anthony Baccioco (guard, 12th).

Top newcomers: Derek Hickman (forward, 11th), Chase DePrue (forward, 11th), Curtis Azevedo (forward, 11th).

Outlook: The Indians have no complaints about returning all of their guards from a year ago, but not returning any post players is reason for concern. The bulk of the Ripon returning contingent is coming off one of the best football seasons in school history and will likely take some time before the players can acclimate themselves back to the basketball court.


2011: 14-0 SL, 23-7 overall. The Knights were the Southern League champion for the second straight season and qualified for the Nor Cal state tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

Coaches: Ron Vander Molen (head), Matt Gregory (assistant), Kris Klein (sophomore), Marv Leusink (freshman).

Top returners: Dan Vos (guard, 12th), Jon Vander Molen (guard, 12th), Clayton Blankers (forward, 12th), Dalton Koslosky (forward, 12th).

Top newcomers: Eric Broker (guard, 11th), Travis Vander Molen (guard, 9th).

Outlook: The Knights will come into the season looking to continue the dominance they have exercised over their SL opponents. Ripon Christian returns league MVP Dan Vos who will lead the Knights guard orientated offense. Ripon Christian is poised to deliver the run-and-gun playing style that will feature thei unique mixture of experience and youth.


— Jagada Chambers


After putting together a perfect 14-0 league season and falling one win short of a Sac-Joaquin Section title, the Sierra Timberwolves would seem like a logical choice for the Valley Oak League’s team to beat. But an experienced Weston Ranch club, led by senior stud Dylan Alexander, is sure to lobby for some of the league’s attention.

Weston Ranch will be guided by first-year head coach Christopher Teevan, who takes over the program for recently departed Ryan Bono. Teevan has embraced the opportunity to implement his stamp on the team, but feels like the success and failure of the squad will depend on the team’s returning leadership.

The Cougars found another favorable bounce after it added Teevan in May, when Tri-City All-League guard Eric Duncan transferred from McNair High. Duncan is the ninth of a huge Weston Ranch senior class, led by area standouts Alexander and Daiveon Leverett.

Leverett and Alexander both have earned All-VOL honors their sophomore and junior seasons and will need to play the most prominent roles if the Cougars are going to reestablish the hierarchy in the VOL.

“This is pretty much where I make my statement,” Alexander said of his final VOL season. “I have accomplished pretty much nothing since I’ve been here. I haven’t helped get a blue banner (section championship) in here and that is what I’m chasing after this year. We have a pretty good team and we have a pretty good chance to compete for that. We’re trying to keep it intense every day and improve each day.

“We can’t afford to backwards steps and regress; we have to progress every day.”

Alexander will surprise no one in the VOL, scoring at will throughout his varsity career. With the addition of Duncan, the scoring load will definitely be partitioned amongst three scorers, but the scoring demands will be secondary to the leadership roles.

“This team has the kids’ stamp,” Teevan said of his nucleus. “The kids have kind of taken over and they have set a standard and expectation of themselves. We know we’ll get to where we need to be at when you are talking about the kids leading and not me.

“I give them the structure and they follow it; I’ll let them know if they’ve lowered their standards because that’s a bad thing.”

The Cougars will get their far share of tests early on in the preseason schedule with dates in the Tracy Holiday Classic, Rocklin Holiday Tournament and the Modesto Christian Holiday Classic. They will also close out the nonleague schedule with a meeting against St. Mary’s of Stockton.

“We have worked harder than we ever have,” Alexander said. “I am doing my best to become  a leader vocally as well as by example. I have to work hard on keeping our intensity up and working hard together.”