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Sierra defense smothers Cats in marquee game
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SONORA — Statement made.

In what was the Valley Oak League’s first marquee matchup between contenders on opening night Wednesday, Sierra was able to achieve what many have a hard time doing.

Win at Sonora’s Bud Castle Gym and win big.

The Timberwolves used tough defense and balanced scoring to claim their seventh straight victory, beating the Wildcats handily, 59-38.

Sierra (1-0, 9-4 overall) held Sonora scoreless for the entire third quarter and the first three minutes of the fourth before putting it on cruise control. Sierra was ahead 33-24 at halftime.

“We mixed up defenses to keep them off balanced,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said. “They missed a lot of good looks, but we got after them.”

Thomason credited 6-foot-5 forward Serge Verettenikov’s defense of Matt Relei, who scored just three points on a first-quarter 3-pointer. Verettenikov also produced nine points on the offensive end, nailing two of Sierra’s nine threes.

Christian Williams paced the Timberwolves with 21 points. Trevor Nogueira sank four 3-pointers and pumped in 14 points. Chris Choate added 10 points.

Brenden Evans turned in 16 points to lead Sonora (0-1, 7-5).

Thomason said that his team’s recent trip to Sonora for Columbia College’s three-day tournament, which the Timberwolves won, helped the Timberwolves build some needed confidence after a slow start to the season.

“We knew they were ready for us because they scouted us a few times at the tournament,” Thomason said. “I’m real proud of the effort, but one game is nothing to be excited about. We know we have a lot of work left to do.”

East Union 47, Ceres 42

In Ceres, the Lancers (1-0, 2-11) put forth a solid wire-to-wire effort to stun the host Bulldogs (0-1, 5-8). East Union set the tone in the first when it held a 13-5 lead.

Tyler Bylow led the way with 18 points, all coming off six 3-pointers. Marshall Swift and Ricky Inderbitzin chipped in nine apiece.

“For us to have a chance to win some games we have to work harder than our opponents for most of the game,” East Union coach Eric Simoni said. “If we can put four quarters of intensity and passion together, you can do things that people don’t expect, and we did that tonight.”

Weston Ranch 63, Oakdale 42

At Weston Ranch, the Cougars (1-0, 6-7) were well ahead 35-16 at halftime and never looked back.

Derrick Sykes churned out 18 points, five rebounds and three steals. Charray Poole recorded 16 points and four steals, while Nate Moises contributed nine points and eight rebounds.

“Our defensive energy in the first half was the difference,” Weston Ranch coach Ryan Bono said.

— Jonamar Jacinto