RIPON — Will Ward had his way in the post. Joseph Berry was deadly from long range. Guillermo Nunez did a little bit of everything else.
“We’re hard to beat when everyone plays their part,” Nunez said.
And Sierra is especially tough when it clamps down defensively like it did in Wednesday’s 54-32 nonleague win at Ripon High.
The Timberwolves (4-2) broke away from a 20-20 halftime tie by varying their defense and ramping up the intensity during a 19-6 third-quarter flurry.
Ripon (1-3) scored its final bucket of the period, a layup from Henk Gaalswyk, with 4:03 to go. Berry knocked down two unanswered 3-pointers to stretch Sierra’s lead to 39-26.
Conner Jones (six points, six rebounds) snapped Ripon out of its dry spell that spanned 5 minutes, 44 seconds early in the fourth. Sierra was ahead 43-28 by that point and scored the rest of its points from the free-throw line, sinking 11 of 14.
“We have struggles shooting the ball,” said Ripon coach Rod Wright. “That’s kind of what we are right now — some days we can shoot, some days we can’t. It was more of their defense (taking) away our offense.”
Ripon’s offense typically comes from the interior. The centers of attention early on were Jake McCreath and Ward, both 6-foot-4 brutes and two of the area’s best at what they do. Wednesday’s showdown was the third between the three-year varsity standouts.
Ward scored 16 points and shared game-high honors with Berry while pulling down 10 rebounds. McCreath ended up with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
“I love going up against guys like that,” Ward said. “Today I had a lot of one-on-ones in the post because he is that good. I like the challenge.”
The difference for Sierra in the second half, aside from the defensive lockdown, was its guard play.
Nunez (14 points, five assists, three steals) sparked the defense, connected on shots from mid-range and spotted open teammates by drawing multiple defenders with dribble penetration. He and Berry each scored 12 points over the final two quarters.
Nunez outdueled Ripon point guard Cole Herrin (two points, five assists), who is also a talented second-year junior.
“Once our guards starting hitting from the outside it just opened up the court for us,” Ward said. “It let us drive more and get offensive rebounds. It just opens everything up when the guards are playing well.”
Sierra 55, Ripon 49
Jonnythan Munkholm led the Timberwolves (3-0) with 18 points including a 6-for-8 effort from the free-throw line. Carlos Quintanilla added 12 points, and Devin Nunez fired nine of his 11 in the first half.
Derek Hickman paced Ripon with 16 points, and Bradley Clark turned in 13.
Sierra 53, Ripon 31
Jakob Gallagher registered 13 points while Jared Silveira had 12 to help Sierra improve to 2-0 in nonleague play.