To move forward from its recent rough patch, Sierra had to go back to what made it great to begin with.
And it was vintage effort that fueled the Timberwolves’ 49-34 win over visiting East Union on Wednesday.
“Just grinding, man,” as Sierra coach Scott Thomason put it.
Sierra (4-4 Valley Oak League, 13-7 overall) has won two straight after going 3-5 in its previous eight. Included in that frustrating stretch were a 55-47 loss to East Union, which snapped a 28-game slide in league, and an 80-69 defeat to Lathrop, which was anchored by sophomore Junior Ballard’s 51-point masterpiece.
“We were looking forward to this one since the loss (to East Union),” Sierra senior Jess Spivey said. “We wanted to get revenge. We knew we were the better team, we just had to show it.”
The Timberwolves never trailed after Daniel Wyatt and Spivey opened scoring with 3-pointers midway through the first quarter and led 13-5 going into the second. The lead was extended to 18-5 when Spivey drew an and-one foul.
Spivey finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds and made 9 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. Wyatt added 14 points and six boards.
Gyse Hulsebosch led the Lancers (3-5, 11-9) with 17 points but struggled from the field. On Jan. 15 he torched Sierra for 29 points. Malik Thomas, who sank a 3 from about 30 feet out at the final buzzer, contributed 11 points, five rebounds and three steals for East Union on Wednesday.
“We did a much better job on (Hulsebosch) tonight,” Thomason said. “We wanted to be more patient on defense, because sometimes we get a little too anxious; we go for steals and stop moving our feet. Just had to keep grinding and grinding. I’m proud of our defensive effort.”
While East Union had trouble getting shots to fall, it also had issues with securing rebounds. Sierra owned the boards, 38-28, and made the most of its nine offensive rebounds.
“We held them to 49 points, but we still had a lot of breakdowns in the halfcourt and rebounding-wise,” East Union coach Ryan Tarr said. “We gave up too many second-chance points, and you have to get stops to win ballgames.
“It was not our best night offensively, but I’m proud of them for competing. Our guys never backed down and kept competing until the final horn.”
It doesn’t get easier for either team. On Friday, East Union plays host to second-place Manteca while Sierra heads to VOL-leading Weston Ranch. Sierra is currently ranked 11th in the MaxPreps Sac-Joaquin Section Division III rankings (a top-12 finish gives it an at-large berth for the playoffs).
“We’re just thinking about one game at a time, we’re not in a position to look ahead,” Thomason said. “Every game for us is going to be a tough game so we have to be ready to compete. We’re taking baby steps right now, and hopefully by the end of the year we’re playing our best basketball.”
East Union 48, Sierra 45
An 11-4 second-quarter run proved to be the difference for East Union, which remains in second place in the VOL with a 6-2 record.
Jesse Anzar led the way with 15 points, and Blake Greenlee contributed 11.
Sierra 52, East Union 40
Carl Weis poured in 21 points as the Timberwolves rolled to victory. Pasqual Vasquez finished with 12 points for East Union.