STOCKTON – Chris Teevan plopped down in his office chair, flipping through the scorebook.
His voice was raspy, his eyes tired and sweat collected in his hair.
“This was a clash,” he said following Weston Ranch’s throw-down with Sierra on Friday evening.
The Timberwolves led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but the Cougars clawed into the lead early in the fourth quarter before succumbing to Sierra’s poise and dogged determination, 70-56.
The win clinched an outright Valley Oak League title for the Timberwolves – the program’s fourth straight – and the school celebrated heartily on Weston Ranch’s home floor.
All Teevan and his boys could do was watch, again.
Weston Ranch made it a one-possession game with 1:27 left, but Sierra went 8 for 8 from the free-throw line and scored the final 11 points of the game to trigger the celebration.
“It’s good for our kids to see it,” Teevan said, “because it makes you want it.”
Sierra has shown Weston Ranch no mercy in the last two seasons, sweeping all four of their meetings. In three of those games, the Cougars had a chance to win or force overtime in the final minutes but stumbled to the finish.
In their first meeting this season, Jaelen Ragsdale’s potential game-tying floater in the final seconds was blocked out of bounds by Joshua Patton. Josh Dilg’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the front of the rim.
Weston Ranch once again had chances to stun the four-time defending champions on Friday evening, but failed to seize the moment.
“You have to do so many things” right, Teevan said. “Missed layups. Missed free throws. Lane violations. We fall down at the end. We don’t scramble back up. They hold you accountable, man. You have to do everything.”
If there was a silver lining in the loss, it was this: The cheerleaders’ senior night festivity was at least three times longer than the basketball team’s.
Weston Ranch honored just three seniors of which only one is a starter: shooting guard Jazz Swanson.
The nucleus of this team is young, led by a pair of team-first stars in juniors Ragsdale and Fred Lavender. Teevan surrounds them with a scrappy supporting cast: Dilg, also a junior; sophomore Tre Simmons; and post Jordan Strane among others.
“We got eight guys coming back next year, so this is good for us,” said Teevan, whose club is 16-10 and 9-4 in the VOL. The Cougars wrap up league tonight at Kimball.
“You can’t skip steps. That’s my biggest thing. You can’t skip steps. We have to feel this pain if we want to get where we want to be.”
Teevan has said all along that the program’s ultimate objective is to win Sac-Joaquin Section championships, and that goal remains in play.
Weston Ranch will be a major player in the Division IV field when the Sac-Joaquin Section releases its brackets on Wednesday.
The D-IV bracket will include heavyweights Capital Christian and Liberty Ranch, ranked 17th and 22nd in the section, according to MaxPreps.
Weston Ranch is No. 36.
Teevan said Weston Ranch has scrimmaged both Capital Christian and Liberty Ranch and relishes an opportunity to play each of them again amid a playoff atmosphere.
Friday’s clash with the big, bad Wolves had all the trappings of a playoff game. That kind of experience, Teevan added, will be invaluable when the playoffs begin on Friday.
“It hurts, but we have more games to play,” Teevan said. “This isn’t like last year when we lost to Sierra and we have to hope and pray we make the playoffs. We have more games coming up.”