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MC tops Sierra for 15th title, but Twolves headed in right direction
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Sierras Emmanuel Elijah pulls up for a jump shot in front of Modesto Christians Zerrion Payton during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 championship at Sleep Train Arena on Friday. Modesto Christian won, 66-54. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

SACRAMENTO — The third time was not the charm for Sierra.

The No. 2 Timberwolves could not overcome the length and athleticism of top-seeded Modesto Christian in a 66-54 loss in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III finals Friday at Sleep Train Arena. It’s the second straight finals defeat for Sierra and its third overall (2001), while Modesto Christian rolled to its section-leading 15th championship in 17 years.

It is the first Division III crown for the Crusaders (27-4), who have six each in Divisions IV and V and two in D-I.

“I’m proud of our guys and I’m happy with where our program is going, but we’re not satisfied,” said Sierra coach Scott Thomason, who led the Timberwolves (26-5) to all of their championship-round appearances.

“Obviously we want to compete at the highest level and win section titles.”

The first one will have to wait.

Sierra, though, did not back down from a loaded squad that features Pacific-bound seniors T.J. Wallace (20 points) and Raymond Bowles (14 points, five assists, five steals). Anthony Townes, a talented 6-foot-6 sophomore, added 10 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks.

Manteca resident Tyras Rattler contributed six points for MC, and former Weston Ranch standout Zerrion Payton had four points and six assists — one of them an electric Alley-Oop pass that capped an all-Bowles 6-0 flurry in the third.

The difference was a back-breaking 10-0 run in the fourth quarter in which Sierra was held scoreless for 4 minutes, 10 seconds. Modesto Christian led 60-43 with three minutes to go.

“We talked about getting back on defense, and obviously it’s easier said than done,” Thomason said. “In the second half they absolutely dominated us on the boards (17-11) and we gave up layup after layup.”

Guillermo Nunez led Sierra with 19 points, 17 scored in the second half. Emmanuel Elijah carried the Timberwolves early, scoring nine of his 17 over the first two periods. Justin Patton had nine points and 11 boards.

“Just disappointed in the loss,” Elijah said. “We could have done some things better and we didn’t execute like we should have. All we can do now is focus on NorCals.”

Brackets for the CIF Northern California Regional Championships will be revealed Sunday evening, and the opening round is set for Wednesday.