The Sierra High boys varsity basketball team squad made it back-to-back in Valley Oak League titles.
But in order to do so, the Timberwolves (13-1, 23-4) fended off visiting Lathrop in Tuesday’s regular season finale, 72-55.
“We found it in ourselves to reach deep down and get the job done,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said.
The Spartans (4-10, 8-17) stayed in the hunt by battling it out on both sides of the court. “We started playing that way at the year,” said Lathrop coach Bill Slikker.
Sierra increased its 33-19 half-time advantage to a 14-point cushion. But the Spartans, who trailed 39-25, responded by reeling off 11 straight points to pull to within three.
Guillermo Nunez, who finished with a game-high 20 points, was fouled hard beyond arc. He then made Lathrop pay by sinking three straight free throws.
The Spartans began to mount another threat early in the fourth, getting key baskets from KV Bal and Robert Orantes.
This time Emmanuel Elijah stepped up for the Timberwolves. The 5-foot-10 senior guard had three straight steals that resulted in points. Included were his four free throws coupled with the one that led to Justin Patton’s two-handed slam dunk.
Elijah came through with 14 points, five steals, and four rebounds. Eric Melgar popped for 18 including four from 3-point range.
Patton chipped in with 10 while Bryson Sanders and Jonnythan Munkholm were key contributors off the bench.
“This was a good team win,” said Thomason. “Everyone on our team contributed.”
Sierra can now look forward to next week’s first round of the postseason.
For Lathrop, the season concluded with plenty of farewells and some promises for the future.
“We will miss (Robert) Orantes,” Slikker said. “He’s the one who made the biggest impact on the Lathrop High basketball program.
“He was coachable, worked hard and was a good team leader.”
The Spartans coach also praised sophomore forward Isaiah Ellis and junior center Eric Spencer for stepping it up towards the end of the season.
“Isaiah came a long way – he really progressed,” said Slikker. “Eric, we call him Texas, was one of our go-to guys.
“We’re looking forward to having both back for next year.”
Against Sierra, Ellis had 14 and Orantes, Spencer and Mikey Pereznegron each chipped in with 11.
Sierra 69, Lathrop 42
The Timberwolves had five players hit for double figures in the VOL finale led by Jakob Gallagher, who hit for 13.
Josh Patton finished with 11 while Hunter Johnson, Devin Nunez and Alex Barnett each connected for 10.
Sierra 62, Lathrop 37
Tanner Peterson paced the Timberwolves (13-1, 21-1) with 12 points and Daniel Wyatt, Brian Terrell and Jess Spivey chipped in with 10 each for the VOL champions.