With four games left in the regular season, the Sierra Timberwolves appear well on their way towards an outright Valley Oak League title.
On Wednesday, they handily took care of visiting Sonora, 69-46. Couple that with Weston Ranch’s loss at Oakdale, and the Timberwolves (10-0 VOL, 17-5 overall) have guaranteed at least a share of the championship.
Sierra took the news in stride. It claimed the outright crown two years ago but shared with Weston Ranch last season.
“We still need to finish strong,” Timberwolves coach Scott Thomason said.
He was pleased with his team’s effort on defense, particularly in the second half, along with the unselfishness play with the ball on offense.
Thomason was also praised the contribution from his reserves.
“Our bench play is very important – we have a lot of good players so there shouldn’t be much of a drop off (once they’re in the game),” he said.
Sierra jumped out to a 12-6 lead thanks to a pair of 3s by Devin Nunez and another by Jakob Gallagher.
Sonora (3-7, 9-12) stayed scrappy, surviving a 10-0 run by the Timberwolves, who also frustrated the Wildcats with their press defense and zone in the first half.
That Sierra second-quarter spurt featured Hunter Johnson nailing a 3 and converting a three-point play along with Joshua Patton adding the exclamation point with a slam dunk.
The Wildcats, however, clawed their way back by drawing fouls, connecting 8 of 10 free throws prior to the intermission.
At that point, the Timberwolves led 35-27.
Sierra pulled away in the third quarter as Gallagher helped ignite the 11-0 run with a steal and a basket. He later converted a three-point play and then connected on an elbow jumper.
“My teammates put in me in a good position to score,” said Gallagher, a 6-foot-3 junior forward who was inserted as a starter about eight games ago.
He finished with 11 points, six assists and two steals.
Nunez led the way with 15 points and Johnson chipped in with 13 points and seven rebounds. Patton and Bryson Sanders chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Entering the fourth quarter, Sierra had the game under control with a 53-36 advantage.
Offensively, the Wildcats were paced by Thomas Nelson and Kyle Wolfe – both finished with 15 points – and Kahale Warring with 12.
“Sonora is a scrappy and determined team,” said Thomason, who is gearing his team for Friday’s VOL clash at East Union.
He summarized the game against the Wildcats as “a solid home win.”
Weston Ranch 50
Sophomore sensation Jaelen Ragsdale scored 20 points for the visiting Cougars (6-4, 10-12), but it wasn’t enough.
Oakdale (4-6, 7-14), led by two of its own promising sophomores, outscored Weston Ranch 23-14 in the fourth quarter to run away with it. Adam Olsen led the Mustangs with 20 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Nate Van Cleave, called up from the sophomore squad last week, contributed 16 points.
“We had a very immature basketball team that didn’t approach the game the right way,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan said. “They showed zero toughness against Oakdale tonight.”
Sierra 54, Sonora 47
The Timberwolves vaulted past Sonora in overtime behind Tanner Peterson’s 13 overall points. Enrique Josol contributed 11 points, while Brian Terrell and Ogun Delaney each had nine.
Sierra 64, Sonora 27
Jamille Grady had the hot hand for the Timberwolves. He drilled seven 3-pointers and totaled 29 points despite sitting out for most of the fourth quarter. Sierra held the visiting Wildcats to just seven second-half points.
Victor Elijah added 12 points to the assault. Noah Ault and Parmvir Singh had nine and eight, respectively.