SACRAMENTO — Anthony Booker capped his big night with the last of his 18 rebounds and dished it to Jaelen Ragsdale, who then lofted the ball straight up toward the rafters at Sleep Train Arena as the clock ticked down to zeroes.
It was a year’s worth of frustration and regret lifted off the shoulders of these Cougars from Weston Ranch.
Buoyed by Ragsdale’s 20 points, D’Angelo Finley’s 19 and a double-double from Booker, the Valley Oak League champion added the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title to its resume after mastering rival Manteca for a third time this season, 69-57. It was on this same floor a year ago that the then ninth-seeded Cougars had their Cinderella run in the postseason derailed by another Manteca Unified rival in Sierra.
It’s the first section title for top-seeded Weston Ranch (27-4), which lost its first two final-round appearances.
“It hurt,” Ragsdale said. “It hurt all summer and in the fall. We just wanted to come in here and get the ‘W.’”
Ragsdale, who also distributed five assists, made 10 straight free throws in the fourth quarter before missing his final two with 21.7 seconds to go. It didn’t matter by that point. The Cougars, who led 45-40 to start the fourth, took its largest lead at 62-46 after a Finley 3 with 2:01 remaining. With starting guard Fred Lavender (11 points, five rebounds, four assists) picking up his fourth foul early in the third, Finley helped pick up the slack offensively by scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half.
“We’re all brothers,” Finley said. “When one goes down another steps up. It’s been happening that way all season. We have the next-man-up mentality. We know our roles, and when it’s time for your number to be called it’s going to be called.”
The 6-foot-10 Booker was also instrumental. On top of producing 13 points, 18 boards and three blocks, he shut down Manteca’s top, offensive weapon, 6-9 center Anand Hundal and limited him to two points and six rebounds.
“He’s a prolific scorer and he can get the ball on the rim,” Booker said. “Coach (Chris Teevan) made it a point to say that it was vital for me to do my best and make every shot a tough shot and that’s what I tried to do. I just kept my hands up, kept a wide base and tried not to foul. It was a challenge.”
After a second-quarter lull, it wasn’t much of a challenge for the Cougars. Third-seeded Manteca (25-6) had its best moments in the second quarter, starting out on an 11-0 run that gave it a 25-18 lead. Josh Dilg (two points, six rebounds) re-energized Weston Ranch with a hard-earned layup with 4:49 left, and Darren Igarta (six points) followed with the second of his two 3-pointers. Ragsdale later got a floater to drop with about 3.5 seconds remaining to make it a 33-33 stalemate by halftime.
“I think we got frustrated a little bit,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “We got a little bit tired but tip your hat, they wanted it more. They’ve felt defeat here, and you saw in their faces in the second half that they wanted it. Our offensive flow was exactly what we wanted in the first half and we went away from it.”
Kenny Wooten led the Buffaloes with 26 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks. Tydus Verhoeven added 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Dwight Young, who torched Vista del Lago for 26 points in the semifinal round on Wednesday, was held scoreless in the second half and settled for nine.