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Section final loss still stings Cougars
BBK--Manteca  Weston Ranch Preview file pic LT
Weston Ranchs Fred Lavender takes on 6-foot-8 Manteca center Anand Hundal during a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal at Sacramentos Cosumnes River College on March 3. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

Weston Ranch boys basketball coach Chris Teevan let nature run its course during Monday afternoon’s practice. 

With the crushing loss to Valley Oak League rival Sierra in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III final still fresh in their minds, Teevan realized there would be some sort of spill-over effect, at least emotionally.

And there was — for both players and coaches.

“It’s emotional when you lose a game like that. It’s hard to put into perspective what you did and how well you’ve been playing,” he said. “We practiced angry because we didn’t get it done and didn’t play hard. And that’s OK. Teams like us, Sierra and Modesto Christian, I think we’re all wired a little differently.”

Teevan won’t let his program wallow in frustration much longer, not with a home game in the Northern California Division III regional tournament on Wednesday evening.

Yes, for the first time all postseason, the Cougars are coming home. 

No. 8 Weston Ranch won its first three games on the road to reach the program’s second section final, including a stunning 63-52 victory at top-seeded Christian Brothers to to clinch a NorCal berth.

Now the Cougars (21-11) will host ninth-seeded Aptos (23-7) on Wednesday. The winner will travel to top-ranked Drake on Saturday.

While the school calendar won’t cooperate — all Manteca Unified School District campuses are closed for spring break — Teevan knows a home game at this point in the season beats traveling to the Bay Area or North Section.

His team had to turn a 2013 contest in Redding into a two-day trip.

“I wish we weren’t on spring break so more students would be there,” Teevan said, “but it’s better than traveling. Two years ago, we traveled to San Francisco (Mission High) and Redding (Enterprise High). That was ridiculous.”

Teevan believes the seeding committee rewarded Weston Ranch with its first-ever NorCal home game for its total body of work — a runner-up finish at the Holiday Invitational Tournament, a third-place showing in the VOL, and of course, three consecutive double-digit victories on the road to start the postseason.

“I think it shows people took notice of our past four games,” Teevan said, “but it also shows that people respect the level of competition we played during the season too.”

The Cougars’ youth caught up to them at Sleep Train Arena as Sierra — equipped with three standout seniors, four returning starters and a coach on the verge of a 300 career wins  —  pounded Weston Ranch, 67-51.

The process of playing in an NBA arena, coupled with a 45-minute delay that pushed opening tip back to 9:45 p.m., was enough to unnerve Weston Ranch.

The Cougars delivered the first punch against Sierra, drilling a 3-pointer from the wing, but Weston Ranch was otherwise helpless against the Timberwolves, seeded third in the NorCal tournament and one of three teams to receive a first-round bye.

“As a coach, it was a whole new process for everybody. At Cosumnes (River College, the site of the semifinal games), I had been there before. Jaelen (Ragsdale) had been there before. Step by step, you’re able to piece your way through it,” Teevan said. “But coach (Scott) Thomason has been (to Sleep Train Arena) before and he’s probably learned a lot from those three trips.

“It’s like what one of our coaches was telling them after the game, there’s no shame to be the No. 2 team in the section and No. 8 in NorCals. We’ve come a long way. We’re a good team and I feel good about playing anyone other than Sierra.”

Aptos will bear a striking resemblance to Christian Brothers, Teevan said. The Mariners aren’t blessed with overwhelming height — the Cougars’ Achilles’ heel — but they field a balanced attack.

Four players score in double figures for Aptos, the Santa Cruz Coast League champions and Central Coast D-III runner-ups: Ben Dorfman (15.3 points, 7.6 rebounds); Cole Rothman (10.4 points); Jonah Gonzalez (10.1 points,  4.7 assists); and Dante Gomez (10.3 points, 8.2 rebounds).

“We watched five or six games. We know they got  couple of good guards that can shoot, they play good defense and mix it up,” Teevan said. “We think they’re really similar to Christian Brothers, so we have to play better than we played the other night.”

Weston Ranch used Monday’s practice to move past last week’s letdown, clearing the lines of any anger or frustration. It was an exercise for both player and coach.

“All weekend I thought about it. I had to find a way to re-energize myself and my coaches,” Teevan said. “We went all weekend talking about Sierra and this and that when there’s a game to be played.

“It’s such a quick turnaround and I think our kids are so blind to the fact that what they’re doing is so special. I just hope we take these experiences into account.”