And with 6 minutes, 41 seconds left in the game, Christian Williams rested.
It was a usual, albeit short, night on the hardwood for Sierra High’s star guard Tuesday, as he scored 29 points while racking up nine rebounds, four assists and three steals in the Timberwolves’ 69-40 non-league victory over visiting Modesto.
Williams was called to the bench seconds after his 3-pointer pushed Sierra’s insurmountable lead to 60-32.
“It was fine,” Williams said of the early exit. “It was good to see everybody play.”
Williams wasn’t the only starting Timberwolf to perform well in limited action.
Serge Veretennikov chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds before fouling out with 2:19 remaining in the third.
Sierra (5-4) is now rolling into the Robert Dominik Fuchs Memorial Holiday Classic at Columbia College behind a three-game winning streak and has won five of its last six.
The Timberwolves open round-robin play with Summerville Friday before its big rematch with Golden Valley Monday.
“We came out with a mindset that we were going to deliver the first blow in both halves,” Williams said. “We’re getting ready to go into the Columbia Tournament, so this was a must-win. That’s what we came to do.”
That first blow didn’t stagger Modesto, as the Timberwolves felt their way through its 2-3 zone defense.
Jordan Banks’ dunk off the glass gave the Panthers a 10-8 lead midway through the first, but Sierra answered with a 12-2 run to end the opening frame.
The first quarter finished in style, as Williams set up his uncontested two-handed dunk with a steal just seconds before the buzzer.
Despite what he called a “sluggish” start to the game, Sierra coach Scott Thomason was pleased to see his players sustain their energy sparked by the late first-quarter run.
“For our subs to come in and maintain that focus and intensity was a good sign for us,” he said. “The last few games we talked about playing for 32 minutes and being focused on every single possession.”
The early struggles continue for Modesto (1-13), which has boasted far more competitive teams in recent years. Modesto currently has just one game decided by a single-digit margin — a 67-65 win over East Union.
Banks is the Panthers’ only original starter, with one nursing an injury sustained during the football season, another moving to Texas and two others are academically ineligibile.
Aaron Washington led Modesto with eight points Tuesday.
“During the summer we were a pretty good group, (but) now we have guys coming off the bench learning to be starters,” Modesto coach Don Wallace said. “We only have two seniors. ... They’re getting good experience right now, and we’ll make a run in league.”