SACRAMENTO — Weston Ranch’s Big Three didn’t spend its final moments on the court together in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
With 6-foot-8 center Daiveon Leverett and point guard Eric Duncan fouled out of Tuesday’s semifinal game at Cosumnes River College, Dylan Alexander stood alone near midcourt, hands on hips as top-seeded Modesto Christian celebrated its hard-fought 63-58 victory in the background.
Both Alexander and Leverett, along with Modesto Christian’s Zerrion Payton, were sophomores two years ago when they lost to eventual-champ Sacramento in the same gym. Payton transferred to MC (27-3) in the middle of the 2011-12 season and is now a contributor on a squad seeking its 17th section title in 19 seasons.
“We worked hard for this,” said Alexander, who led all players with 21 points. “It’s never a good feeling to come up short of your goals and expectations. Tonight, they were the better team.”
Not by much.
It was nip-and-tuck throughout, even with key players sitting for big stretches with foul trouble for No. 4 Weston Ranch (21-9). The Cougars opened the second half with a 9-1 run that jumped them ahead, 39-35.
Modesto Christian took control early in the fourth.
Duncan, who carried Weston Ranch in the first half when he scored 14 of his 19 points, was on the bench with his fourth foul, and Leverett (9 points) was tagged with his fifth with still 5:11 to go. The Crusaders surged behind an 8-0 flurry, leading 55-46 by the midway point of the fourth. Alexander scored six points in a 1 minute, 38-second span to give Cougars some hope, and Duncan nailed the last of his four 3-pointers during that stretch before fouling out moments later.
Weston Ranch was outrebounded 13-4 in the fourth quarter, most of it with Leverett on the bench.
Anthony Townes, MC’s 6-foot-6 sophomore post standout, had 15 points and was one of four Crusaders in double figures. T.J. Wallace — a former teammate of Duncan’s at McNair High of Stockton — poured in eight of his 14 in the third quarter. Mason Washington and freshman phenom Christian Ellis added 13 and 11 points, for Modesto Christian, which faces Sierra this Friday at Sleep Train Arena.
It’s not over yet for Alexander and Co., as all section semifinalists advance to the CIF Northern California Regional Championships.
“We have nothing to lose right now,” Alexander said. “Ninety percent of our team is made up of seniors, so we’re going to leave it out there and try and extend our season for as long as possible.”