MANTECA — The last time the Sierra High boys basketball team lost a Valley Oak League game, Chris Teevan was in the stands, evaluating and recruiting players in his role as Modesto Junior College assistant coach.
On Friday night, Teevan who played at Beyer High, MJC and Cal State Stanislaus not only moved down to the best seat in the house, but came away with his biggest win in his first season as a head coach as his Weston Ranch squad stunned Sierra 67-50.
The Timberwolves (22-4 overall, 12-1 VOL) would have earned a second straight outright VOL title with a win, which would have been their 27th straight in league play.
Now it looks as though Sierra will have to settle for a co-title with the Cougars (18-8, 12-1,) unless upsets happen in one of Tuesday's finales. Sierra hosts Lathrop to close out the regular season while Weston Ranch visits Kimball.
"Weston Ranch played a great game and were obviously better than us tonight," said Sierra coach Scott Thomason. "There's still no reason for us to hang our head.
"We have a chance to win a league title Tuesday night and cut down the nets. We have to go back to work because we still have a chance to get two home games in the playoffs."
In addition to having the league title at stake, both these programs were looking to improve their post-season positions.
Sierra is the No. 1 seed in Division 3 of the Sac-Joaquin Section, while Weston Ranch is No. 3. Right behind the two is Modesto Christian at No. 5, and all three are battling Casa Roble and Lincoln (of Lincoln) in the race to grab a top-4 seed that would guarantee two home games.
If the section merely looks at Friday's final score, it might come away with the notion that Weston Ranch handled Sierra with ease in this rematch of an earlier Timberwolves' victory. But that was far from the case.
Sierra scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to pull within 46-45 with 6 minutes, 53 seconds remaining, and would not score another field goal.
It might have been the first time in many years a VOL team was able to look Sierra in the eye and accept the challenge of matching the Timberwolves' defensive intensity, something that requires the complete team effort not always associated with the typically star-driven Weston Ranch program.
The Cougars still have the stars, with guards Dylan Alexander, Eric Duncan and Daiveon Leverett, but on Friday they won with a team.
"The coolest thing about tonight is that all year it's been about our big three," Teevan said. "We had 4-5-6-7 win the game for us tonight, which means the other players on the team have accepted that they don't have to score 20 for us every night for us to win.
"This is a special group. They're fun to coach and that supposedly has been the knock on this team the last few years."
The big three still got their points. Duncan scored 20, Leverett 13 and Alexander 12, but senior small forward Justin Lassiter stepped up to score 16 points, including nine in the game's final five minutes.
"Maybe the disappointing thing about this was that they were able to beat us like this without Dylan going off," Thomason said. "But those guys are tough, and I thought 15 (Lassiter) did some good things for them. Maybe he was the X factor."
Sierra did have a chance to take control early. Guillermo Nunez scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half to lead the Timberwolves to a 27-17 lead midway through the second quarter. Weston Ranch didn't panic, and went inside for all its points to close the half on a 9-2 run.
"We should have been up by more than three points at halftime," Thomason said. "We didn't finish the half well and that gave me a bad gut feeling. They just jumped us in the second half and we're going to correct that."
Those players Teevan was recruiting two years ago? They were Alexander and Leverett, just sophomores at the time. Never too early to plant the seeds in the minds of young athletes.
Teevan was hoping he'd have a chance to help coach those players next season at MJC. He had no idea at the time the Weston Ranch job would come open.
"We have guys who have been cut from teams starting and playing for us, and making big plays," Teevan said. "Sierra still has the best full-on program around and I know they take a lot of flak from our fans, but we do respect Scott and his program 100 percent."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek.