Typically, coaches will use wind sprints as a way to grab their team’s attention.
Most of the time, those sprints take place in practice, behind closed doors. Not at halftime of crucial early-season game.
On Tuesday, Sierra High boys basketball coach Scott Thomason threw convention to the wolves in a 60-50 victory over Central Catholic.
Sierra emerged from the locker room with a five-point lead and momentum blowing in their sails. Yet, they still ran sprints like they had something to prove.
Maybe they did.
Sierra knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers in the third and held Central Catholic scoreless over a 5-minute stretch to seal their 10th straight victory. The last nine in the streak have come by 10 or more points.
Jess Spivey led three players in double figures with a season-high 21 points, including three 3-pointers. The junior came up large in big moments for the Timberwolves, now 3-0 in its defense of the Valley Oak League title.
“On to the next,” Thomason said.
First, Tuesday’s highlights and stars.
Spivey had seven points in the second quarter and fueled a 10-0 spurt to close the first half with a 3 from the wing that tied the game at 24. He later had a nifty hook shot in transition, shaking his defender with a pivot on the low block, to make it 28-24 with under a minute left in the first half.
“The thing about Jess is that he makes really good decisions; he won’t force anything,” Thomason said. “He’ll take open, in-rhythm jump shots. He got some boards and some put-backs that were big. He does a lot of the little things. I thought he had a very good game for us tonight.”
Joshua Patton finished with 11 points and four blocked shots. The Raiders collapsed on the 6-foot-8 center, even knocking the Sacramento State-bound senior out of the game momentarily with a blow to his head in the second quarter.
“JP got banged up pretty good,” Thomason said, “but I thought he grinded and made plays for us.”
Devin Nunez chipped in 11 points and four assists, while fellow starters Hunter Johnson and Daniel Wyatt contributed nine and eight points, respectively.
Sierra got just one point from its bench — a free throw by Alex Farfan with 8.5 seconds left.
Instead, Thomason leaned on his starting five to secure Sierra’s first big win of the Valley Oak League campaign.
Sierra is now 3-1 against Central Catholic dating back to 2007. The first three encounters took place in the Columbia College tournament.
“We talked about it before the game. We needed to come out and be physical every possession. Every time we’ve played them in the past, it’s been like that,” said Thomason, whose team was hit with two technicals and had one player switch jerseys because of blood. “We wanted to out-tough them and out-scrap them and I thought we did that tonight.”
The Raiders made the jump to the VOL from the smaller Western Athletic Conference and, much like their football program, proved they belong. Blessed with ample size and a small fleet of shooters, Central Catholic (9-5, 1-2) dictated the early going.
The Raiders connected on four of their first five 3-pointers and led by five, 24-19, with 3:39 left in the first half.
Sierra would turn up the defensive pressure, holding Central Catholic scoreless for the next five minutes. The Timberwolves erased the deficit and pulled away thanks to a 14-0 run that spanned the first and second halves.
Central Catholic’s Cooper Wilson ended the drought with a lay-up early in the third quarter, but all that did was a trigger another Sierra spurt.
“They are tough to defend,” Central Catholic assistant Marzell Clayton said. “You have to be in good condition to play that hard all game.”
Wyatt, Johnson and Spivey rained in 3-pointers, pushing the lead to 42-26. After starting the game 0-for-6 from beyond the arc, Sierra made six of its next seven attempts from range.
“We were playing really good basketball during that stretch in the third quarter,” Thomason said. “I thought we were running our lanes. We got out in the open court, guys were spotting up and we were sharing the ball. Everything looks better when you’re making shots, especially from the outside.”
Central Catholic would get no closer than eight the rest of the way. Sierra kept its guests at arm’s reach by connecting on 12 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Patton scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth, shaking off an earlier blow to his eye.
He was 5 of 6 from the line in final stanza and finished the game on the bench with an ice pack above his eye.
“When you’re in close games, making free throws and taking care of the ball are two crucial things,” Thomason said. “JP got on a roll there. We talked about it in our shoot-around — who gets to the free-throw line more and who makes more. We thought that was going to be a big key in this game.”
Central Catholic 61
Noah Ault made two free throws with 41.8 seconds left in overtime to complete Sierra’s late-game rally.
The Timberwolves trailed in the fourth quarter but sent the game into overtime tied at 57.
Jamille Grady scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half and overtime period to lead the charge.
Ault finished with eight points, including those pivotal free throws to make it 63-61.
Bikram Thiara had 11 points and Victor Elijah rounded out a balanced scoring attack with 10.
Central Catholic 53, Sierra 50
The Raiders escaped The Den with a victory thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
J.T. Ortiz Martinez led the Timberwolves with 21 points. Jacob Peterson had 11 points and Oscar Pardo 8.