Daniel Wyatt hit an off-balanced, double-clutch 3-pointer as time expired in the end of Sierra’s 67-63 loss to visiting Central Catholic on Wednesday.
Earlier in the game, he banked in a half-court 3 that was called off after the halftime buzzer.
Sierra had several open looks rim in and out late in the fourth quarter, including three 3-point tries on its second-to-last possession with the Raiders ahead by six, 66-60.
“Story of our season — a second too slow, a second too late,” Sierra coach Scott Thomason said. “What ifs, what ifs, what ifs.”
It was another tough loss for the Timberwolves (4-6, 13-9 overall), who are in the middle of a brutal three-game stretch that includes the Valley Oak League’s top teams in succession. Third-place Central Catholic (7-3, 18-4) led by as much as 18 in the second half but had to hold off the hot-shooting Wyatt and Sierra in the end.
Wyatt scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half, and Bikram Thiara (four points, three steals) sank two free throws to close Sierra in 60-56 with 2:04 remaining.
Jess Spivey’s 24 points and nine rebounds led Sierra, while guard Jarred Rice scored 20 points for Central Catholic despite an 8-of-15 effort from the foul line.
“Coach let us know that we needed to deliver the first blow and we came out and failed to do that in the first quarter,” Wyatt said, referencing the Raiders’ 9-2 run to start the game. “(They) smacked us in the mouth, so the whole game we were playing catch-up and trying to put the fight into us, but we just didn’t have enough.”
It’s the second time Central Catholic nearly blew a big lead against Sierra, and this time it had pull it out with two starters — Josh Hamilton (18 points) and Peter Hamilton (nine points) — fouling out in the middle of the fourth quarter. In their Jan. 12 meeting, the Raiders led 53-41 after three quarters and squeaked out a 79-76 win.
Though not entirely pleased with the victory, Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson will take them any way he can in the competitive VOL.
“Better believe it … You can never count them out, which they’ve proven to us twice,” Wilson said.
Sierra managed to take momentum into the fourth quarter despite a poor start to the third, when the Raiders scored 12 unanswered points capped by a Rice 3 to take their largest lead at 42-24. The Timberwolves answered with a 10-0 spurt in the final 1:31 of the period, with Wyatt finishing it off with a three-point play.
Central Catholic began the fourth with another run, stretching a 49-42 lead to 57-42.
“We made some plays late, we didn’t give up and kept on playing, (but) told our guys whoever wins the rebound battle is going to win the game and I think we got annihilated on the boards,” Thomason said. “I don’t know the totals. I don’t know if I want to see the totals.”
Central Catholic had a 31-26 edge in rebounds, but 11 of them came on the offensive end. Rice, a 5-foot-10 guard, pulled down a game-high 13 boards, including five on offense.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Timberwolves, who play host to Manteca and its talented 6-foot-9 tandem of Anand Hundal and Kenny Wooten on Friday. Last Friday, Jan. 29, they played VOL-leading Weston Ranch tough but fell short, 63-56.