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Center posts triple-double for Dragons
Head coach Ryan Bono goes of the game plan with his Weston Ranch players during a timeout with 19.5 seconds left. - photo by HIME ROMERO
SACRAMENTO — The Weston Ranch boys basketball team couldn’t slay the Dragons, and the biggest and baddest of them all was slowed only by early foul trouble.

Sacramento High center Robert Garrett — all 6 feet, 11 inches of him — established his imposing presence from the start, finishing with 20 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks to help send the two-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III champion back to the finals with Wednesday’s 74-67 win at Cosumnes River College.

The No. 1-seeded Dragons (24-5) will go for the three-peat against either No. 2 Center or No. 6 Foothill Friday at Power Balance Pavillion. The title-round appearance will be the program’s seventh straight, a streak that includes a 62-58 win over Weston Ranch in 2007.

“He really didn’t get going like he normally does, but clearly he is the best player in our section,” Sac High coach Derek Swafford said of the Santa Clara-bound Garrett. “He’ll have a better game (Friday), I believe. He was in foul trouble, but the sign of a good team is overcoming obstacles.”

Fourth-seeded Weston Ranch (26-3), which had a 20-game winning streak snapped, had its share of obstacles to work through.

The Cougars trailed 20-7 late in the first quarter before answering with a 20-7 run that led to a 31-29 lead with 1:30 to go in the half. The score was tied at 35 at halftime.

With their top scorer, 6-4 sophomore guard Dylan Alexander, fouled out of the game, they last led 62-61 midway through the final period and went on a 3-minute, 21-second scoring drought. Sac rattled off nine unanswered points in the process.

Weston Ranch had several layups rim in and out before settling for 3-pointers. Not helping matters was a 3-for-8 effort from the free-throw line in the fourth. The team was 19-for-30 total.

“We battled back so hard,” Weston Ranch coach Ryan Bono said. “Toward the end of the fourth quarter we took some ill-advised 3-pointers because we were tired. They’re a strong team, an aggressive team, and free throws are all about legs and confidence.

“It’s a game of runs, and unfortunately we couldn’t answer back with one of our own,” he added.

Alexander, who went into the semifinal contest scoring a team-high 17.4 points per game, picked up his fifth foul with 4:59 remaining and Weston Ranch leading 58-56.

He rounded out the contest with seven points, seven rebounds and three assists — one of them a crosscourt beauty to 6-7 Daiveon Leverett, whose authoritative two-handed slam that followed momentarily jumped the Ranch ahead 57-56 a minute into the fourth.

“Not having Dylan on the floor for a lot of minutes hurt us, but we’re more than one person and I think we kind of showed that,” Bono said.

Sophomore guard Zerrion Payton paced Weston Ranch with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four steals. Andre Beard added 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Making huge contributions off the bench were senior guards E.J. Allen (8 points) and LaDra Befford, who scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth period.

Leverett chimed in with eight points and three blocks — two of them against Garrett.

“I knew coming into the game that he was 6-11 and that I had to play aggressively and not scared,” Leverett said. “I just gave it my all.”

Sacramento got 21 points from sophomore guard De’von Boyd; 13 from Aaron Cameron, another sophomore; 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks from Erik Kinney; and nine points, six rebounds and seven assists from Darius Graham.

Weston Ranch’s season isn’t over yet, as its semifinal berth qualified it for NorCals, which begins next Tuesday and likely on the road for the Cougars.

“We gained a lot of experience,” Payton said. “We see what type of ball that we have to play to get to the next level. We’ve got to carry this over into practice and into next week for NorCals.”