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Cougars ward off Andrade, Sierra
Melvin Allen gets low in the midst of a mountain of Timberwolves Friday in the Cougars’ VOL win over Sierra.
WESTON RANCH – There’s hot, and then there’s Eddie Andrade hot.

Down double digits to intra-district rival Weston Ranch Friday night in Stockton, Sierra High’s Andrade erupted in the third quarter with five 3-point shots that not only swung the momentum squarely back into Sierra’s favor, but also helped cut the Cougar lead down to a single point.

In the end, however, it was the speed of Weston Ranch that would deal the final blow coming by way of a Ladra Befford steal and score that once again gave the Cougars a double-digit lead and a 67-56 victory in a battle between the Valley Oak League’s remaining undefeated squads.

“I don’t even know if there was a word for how hot he got,” Weston Ranch head coach Ryan Bono said, of Andrade, who finished the game with eight shots from beyond the arc.  “He was hitting those shots while we worked inside, and Ladra sealed the deal for us with that steal at the end of the game.

“We knew that it was going to be a fight and that it was going to be a playoff atmosphere, and that’s what we prepared ourselves for. Scott (Thomason) had these guys ready, and it’s going to be the same when we play them at their place later this year.”

The Cougars (6-0, 15-2 overall) used their quickness right out of the gate to jump to an early lead, and held only a one-point margin at the end of the first quarter. As the Timberwolves (5-1, 14-4) struggled to find their offensive rhythm and Weston Ranch continued to pound away inside, what was a one-point margin grew to seven points by halftime.

The combination of Melvin Allen and Dylan Alexander was successful in penetrating the key and then deciding where to go from there – usually taking the ball up themselves or finding an open teammate.

But when Andrade started getting any free time at all from beyond the arc in the third quarter, his shots started to fall. The first two just seemed like they were lucky, but with five by the end of the quarter to bring them within seven and a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth to cut that margin down to three, it was apparent that it was much more than luck.

Alexander, who finished the game with 17 points, also pulled in three rebounds and had a steal. Zerrion Payton finished with 15 points, while Allen had 14.

“It’s a rivalry game, so you know that you’re going to have to step up and push the ball. We ran the transition really well on defense, but that guy got hot and there’s nothing you can do,” said Alexander, who nailed his own 3-point shot during the middle of Andrade’s explosion. “We stepped up in front of a big crowd and defended our home court, and for that we should be proud.”

According to Thomason, poor defensive execution was a big factor in how things turned out the way that they did.

“We’ve talked all week about having to keep guys in front of us, and that really hurt us tonight,” Thomasen said. “That and a lack of free throw shooting really hurt us.

“But this game is not going to define us. We’ll store this away, and right now all that we’re thinking about is who we have next, which is Manteca – which will be another big game for us.”

Tensions ran high after Thomason received a technical foul, and a Sierra scorekeeper got into a verbal spat with one of the officials – leading to an ejection that held up the game and riled not only both squads but both sides of the gym as well.

Andrade led all Sierra players in scoring with 26 points, and finished the game with eight 3-point shots. Jerrod Patton finished with 10 point and 13 rebounds. Will Ward also contributed 10 points.