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Nunez, Timberwolves sink Placer again
Sierra forward DAri Allen (24) dunks over Placers Andrew Dahlin during the second half of Fridays 71-51 victory. - photo by CHRIS LEONARD / <a href=>

Sierra boys basketball coach Scott Thomason called out the play and left the rest to his sharp-shooting star.

To be fair, though, Guillermo Nunez got a little help from the home crowd and a puddle.

A member of the band accidentally bumped a bottle of water courtside, halting play during Friday’s 71-51 victory over No. 7 Placer in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

While staff mopped up the mess, Nunez spent the downtime chatting with the Hillmen’s Logan Frew, a wide-eyed reserve seeing the court for the first time.

Frew played right into Nunez’s trap.

The Timberwolves senior turned the conversation to football – and then turned Placer’s season upside down with a pair of highlight reel buckets to end the third quarter.

“I was just trying to distract him. I asked him about his football team,” Nunez said. “When Coach T called the play, I made a cut and he went the other way.”

All that football talk resulted in a two-touchdown blitz by second-seeded Sierra, ignited by Nunez.

First, there was his cut.

The change in direction resulted in a deep 3-pointer from the wing. Nunez was slapped on the arm by Frew for a rare four-point play.

About a minute later, Nunez hit a turnaround jumper over the smaller Frew to make it 54-43 heading into the fourth.

Travel safely, Placer.

The Hillmen had cut the deficit to 47-43 on seven straight points by Isaiah Pineiro, but for the second straight season left the City of Manteca with a double-digit loss to chew on.

Nunez turned water into ice, freezing the Hillmen (20-9) with his silver tongue and dead eye.

“Big time player make big-time shots in big-time situations,” Thomason said. “He’s been doing that his whole career.”

Nunez scored 29 points on five 3-pointers, each a little deeper than the last.

The wispy guard continues to build upon his big-shot reputation. He has 11 3-pointers in two playoff games, including a rare four-point play that broke Placer’s will on Friday.

Eric Melgar had 18 points on two 3-pointers and a foul-strapped Emmanuel Elijah acted as closer for Sierra, now 25-4.

Elijah sat for most of the game after picking up his second and third fouls early in each half. He burst into the game in the fourth, though, scoring nine of his 14 points.

“We’re like assassins,” Nunez said.

Any anonymity Sierra had vanished completely Friday evening.

The Timberwolves will face the third-seeded Rams on Tuesday in the semifinal round at Cosumnes River College in Elk Grove.

Casa Roble dispatched No. 6 Patterson 53-47 on Friday evening.

Tip off is at 9 p.m.

Two days after chasing No. 15 Ceres into the offseason with a 42-4 first-half charge, the Timberwolves showed their resiliency and mite in a physical test with Placer.

Sierra had no match for the 6-foot, 6-inch Pineiro on the low block.

The Placer forward moved through the Timberwolves’ big men, showcasing a feathery touch from 15 feet. He had 29 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots, but was negated down the stretch by the Timberwolves’ zone defense.

When forced to find other options, Placer simply had none. Michael McNamara had 10 points, but only two came in the second half.

Placer went more than 6½ minutes without a point in the third and fourth quarters.

“We couldn’t stop them. It was a back and forth game. It was a battle, but we knew that,” Thomason said. “We knew it would be a scrappy, physical game.

“Our guys have grit and they’ve got competitive greatness in them. We’ve been in plenty of these pressure situations and they rose to the occasion.”