Sierra High’s entire student cheering section showed up to Dalben Center Friday and rushed midcourt following a Valley Oak League victory against cross-town rival East Union.
The Timberwolves (11-0 VOL, 18-5 overall) weren’t celebrating because they knocked off the struggling Lancers – losers of their last eight -- 52-27, they were rejoicing because Sierra had just clinched its third consecutive VOL championship.
And it did so outright.
“A lot of guys didn’t think we could do this with this team,” Sierra head coach Scott Thomason said. “It proves that we have good players and a great program. We’ll never be satisfied. We’re always trying to get better.”
Sierra steadily got better against the Lancers (1-10, 8-14), who trailed 11-3 after the first frame.
The Timberwolves’ junior Hunter Johnson tied for a team-high with 12 points and pulled seven rebounds and dished two assists. He even knocked down a pair of treys, including one from deep that made it 33-13 with less than six minutes left in the third quarter.
Sierra, which went on an 8-0 run to close the first after it was tied at three apiece, outscored East Union 12-7 in the second stanza to take a 23-10 lead into the locker room.
“We still have unsettled business these last three games,” Thomason added. “Bottom line is our kids are a non-excuse team. A lot of these teams want to make excuses about age and size and all that. We don’t do that, we just show up ready to play.”
East Union guard Andrew Ruiz showed up ready to play and finished with eight points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal. He converted three of the Lancers’ six free throws (6 of 14) to start the second quarter and cut his squad’s deficit to five.
Johnson’s 3-ball on the next trip down created an eight-point Sierra lead, but the Lancers tallied the next four points to make it a 14-10 contest on a bucket from Ruiz.
“Anything is possible the way our team works,” Johnson stated. “We’re definitely going 100 percent and we’re finishing the season with a bang.”
Johnson’s junior teammate Joshua Patton also finished with 12 and hauled in eight boards. He had an assist, steal and a block.
At the end of the third quarter, Patton attempted to drive the ball to the rim after crossing East Union standout Jake Danhoff (three points, six rebounds) at the top of the arc.
Danhoff wasn’t having it in front of a home audience on Winter Homecoming Night and violently fouled Patton and sent him to the hardwood. That occurred right after Ruiz drilled a trey to make it 39-16 and snapped an 11-0 run for Sierra.
After Patton converted a foul shot, Sierra led by 26 as the third quarter expired. Patton went 3 of 6 from the line in the fourth frame and the T’Wolves shot 16 of 27 total.
Devin Nunez added seven for Sierra, which will play Wednesday at home against Manteca at 7:15 p.m. East Union, which also received six points and five boards from Lucas Garcia, will be at home as well on Wednesday night against Weston Ranch.
East Union 63, Sierra 42
The Lancers cruised past their cross-town rival behind Gyse Hulsebosch’s game-high 24. Austin Miller (13) and Eric Flores combined for 25 against Sierra, which was led by Brian Terrell’s 16.
Sierra 52, East Union 49
Noah Ault dropped a team-high 16 for the T’Wolves, who also received 13 from Marcos Castillo, nine from Jemille Grady and eight from Parmuir Singh. Scott Morenzone led the Lancers with 13. Delvon Bradford finished with 12, Angel Sena eight and Jordan Barajas nine for EU.