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Sierra overcomes illness, pesky Fairfield in first-round victory
BBK--Fairfield-Sierra pic 1
Sierra forward Hunter Johnson takes Fairfield defender Nathan Joseph off the dribble along the baseline. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

When one of your best players is sick, gets in foul trouble and is double-teamed all night that could be trouble.

Not if you are the Sierra boys basketball team.

Sierra center Josh Patton was beset by illness Wednesday night and the focus of the Fairfield defense as well. Patton missed a good portion of the game due to foul trouble, but the supporting cast of Devin Nunez, Hunter Johnson, Daniel Wyatt and Jess Spivey stepped up to lead the host No. 3 Timberwolves past the relentless No. 14 Falcons 61-49 in opening-round Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff action.

“He was sick and he was trying to battle through it,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said of Patton. “Obviously he wasn’t himself tonight.

“So other guys had to step up. I thought Hunter Johnson made big-time plays and Devin Nunez was a warrior tonight, hitting big 3 after big 3. We were up by four when Devin hit that big-time 3 that gave us some separation.”

Nunez led all scorers with 18 points behind five3-pointers.

After Fairfield (13-14) closed to within 43-41 to start the fourth quarter, Johnson hit Spivey with a pass and Spivey banked in a layup to go ahead 45-41.

Enter Nunez.

Nunez took a pass from Wyatt and drained an NBA-range 3-pointer with 5:20 left in the game to bump the Timberwolves lead to 48-41. Patton then drew a charge and Wyatt converted the next possession to make the score 50-41 and Sierra (26-2) never led by less than six points again.

“When they got close I felt like we needed separation,” Nunez said. “So I let it fly because I trusted J.P. (Patton) and Hunter (Johnson) would get it if I missed but it went in.”

Johnson had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and made the most spectacular play of the night. With 3:33 showing on the fourth-quarter clock, Johnson pulled down a rebound and was pushed away from the basket. Somehow he managed to spin off balance and throw up no-look left hander off the glass for part of a three-point play and a 54-44 lead.

“I got the rebound on the missed shot and I got fouled,” Johnson said. “And then I don’t know, I just put it up.”

Wyatt (five points, six rebounds, steal, block) directed the high-octane Timberwolves offense with nine assists.

“We knew from the start that they were going to pressure us,” Wyatt said. “And we had to take that into consideration and take care of the ball and distribute it, so I was trying to get the ball to my teammates for open shots without turning it over.”

Spivey added 14 points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal and Patton grabbed six rebounds, two steals and a block to go with his six points.

The Falcons were a much better team than their 13-13 record coming into Wednesday’s game showed. They took an early 4-0 lead and held Sierra to just 12 first-period points, but they also missed four free throws in the first quarter and were just 11 of 20 from the line.

“Fairfield is a good team,” Thomason said. “They went to the section finals last year.

“We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew they had good athletes and good quickness and we are fortunate they missed a lot of free throws tonight.

In its regular-season finale on Friday, Fairfield edged No. 2 seed Vanden by a point. The Falcons finished fourth in the Solano County Athletic Conference and this Friday the Timberwolves will face Vallejo, the second- place team in the SCAC. No. 11 Vallejo defeated No. 6 Florin 81-79 on Wednesday.

“We have to play better,” Thomason said. “We have to play better on Friday night.

“We got this game over with and now we can go have some fun on Friday night.”

Tipoff Friday is at Sierra at 7 p.m.