The only thing that could slow Sierra’s roll on tuesday was the running clock in its season opener against visiting Golden Valley of Merced.
The Timberwolves, with reserves on the floor, were limited to seven points in the fourth quarter but came away with a resounding 72-20 victory. The Valley Oak League’s defending champions needed just one quarter to ice it, as they carried a 30-0 advantage into the second.
All 14 of Sierra’s players got to check into the game in the first half and 12 of them ended up scoring. Sacramento State-bound center Joshua Patton led the charge with 17 points and three rim-rattling dunks.
Sierra dominated in every facet, topping Golden Valley in rebounds (20-6), assists (15-1), steals (11-1) and turnovers (3-14) over the first two quarters. Freshman forward Cyrus Allen grabbed Golden Valley’s first rebound with about 1:45 left in the first, Lee McNeil drained a free throw for the Cougars’ first point 1 minute, 11 seconds into the second and Isaac Daniel buried a 3 for their first field goal with 5:16 remaining in the half.
“Can’t complain about the start we had,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said.
Jess Spivey scored the game’s first seven points to get the Timberwolves off and running, but it wasn’t until Patton’s astonishing alley-oop slam that completely knocked the wind out of Golden Valley.
Ogun Delaney spearheaded the fastbreak and drove it the hoop with Patton trailing the play. Delaney’s delivery appeared to be too high — not so for the 6-foot-8 and long-armed Patton, who caught it with his right hand and threw it down emphatically to get the Sierra crowd in a frenzy. That made it 22-0, and the Cougars promptly called their second timeout with still 2:10 to go in the first quarter.
“I knew I had to go up there and get it, so that’s just what I did,” said Patton, who also had four rebounds, two steals and two blocks in limited action. “Since then everybody got more excited and the crowd got into it, which pumped us up even more. When everybody is clicking and excited it just makes for a better atmosphere.”
Both Patton and Thomason said the team had revenge in mind going into the game. Last year, Golden Valley nipped Sierra 57-52 in their annual nonleague showdown. Sierra is now 8-2 against the large-school powerhouse since the 2005-06 season. Golden Valley is coming off four straight 20-win seasons but is rebuilding after losing its top three players — Evan Stillahn, Josh Sykes and Christian Carroll — to graduation.
“Golden Valley is better than what they showed tonight and we respect their coach (Keith Hunter) a lot,” Thomason said. “We were just clicking on all cylinders tonight. Guys were ready to go. We had a good focus and determination about us and it just snowballed for them. We got the momentum, got the crowd in our favor, guys were making exciting plays and just kind of built on that.”
Hunter Johnson and Spivey each contributed nine points for the Timberwolves. Delaney added seven points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Daniel Wyatt had six points and seven assists. Johnson and Wyatt, two of Sierra’s top returning players, didn’t even start the game.
“We’re taking it one game at a time and going with what gives us the best chance to win a game,” Thomason said. “It might be different next game. I’ll let the guys work it out in practice.”
This might be the deepest team Thomason has ever had; pretty scary for a program that has won at least 20 games eight times and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III finals twice (2012, 13) in the last 10 seasons.
Despite the impressive start, Thomason is quick to put things in perspective for his team.
“Something to build on, but we’re not going to be satisfied,” Thomason said. “One-game seasons for us. … It’s just the beginning. We’ll go back and watch the film, see the things that we’re not doing right, some things that we can clean up. We got two days to get ready to go on the road against McNair.”
Golden Valley 32
The Timberwolves outscored Golden Valley 39-14 in the second half.
Noah Ault sparked the second-half charge by scoring 10 of his game-high 17 points in the third quarter. Victor Elijah chipped in 16 points.
Golden Valley 57
Jaime Ochoa nailed four 3-pointers on his way to scoring 23 points for Sierra. Andrew Olivas also splashed down four 3s and finished with 12 points