PATTERSON — With his team holding a two-point lead at the intermission, Riverbank High School guard Rolaun Dunham did what was expected of him: He took over the game.
Dunham, one of the top players in the Stanislaus District, scored 11 of his team-high 24 points in the third quarter – including nine during an 11-0 run to start the half – and the Bruins held off a late Patterson charge for a 66-60 nonleague victory Tuesday night.
“I felt like I needed to come out in the third quarter and do that,” said Dunham, a 6-foot-2 senior who averages 19 points per game. “At halftime, my coach told me that it was my time.”
The Bruins (20-2) led 52-39 heading into the final quarter thanks largely to Dunham. But it wasn’t only Dunham. Reilly Nabors, a 6-1 senior guard, scored 20, while 5-10 junior guard Ylii Lopez had 13.
“We knew this would be a tough game,” said Riverbank coach Jeff Jennings, whose team has a Trans-Valley League showdown looming Friday against Modesto Christian. “This is what we needed to see: A very athletic team, a very physical team … especially coming on the road.”
The Tigers, playing without two starters – Cariaun Williams and Gurkirt Heery – were more than just a playoff warm-up act for Riverbank. After trailing by as many as 13 in the second half, Patterson (13-11) pulled to within six – 54-48 – with 5:23 left in the game. But each time the Tigers got within shouting distance, Riverbank had an answer.
Dunham nailed a 3-pointer with 2:48 remaining to give the Bruins a 59-50 cushion and seemingly put the game on ice.
But Patterson kept clawing away and cut it to 64-60 with 11 seconds remaining. Forced to foul, Nabors canned two free throws to seal it.
In the final two minutes, Riverbank sank 9 of 10 free throws.
“This is the most fun game we’ve had in a while,” said Tigers coach Brian de la Porte. “It’s the first time in about 10 games we haven’t seen a zone. They played us man-to-man and that’s what we’re going to see (in the playoffs).
“We just need to finish out fourth quarters … we don’t execute well in the last four minutes of games. That’s cost us five or six wins this season.”
Patterson’s Justin Rodriguez led all scorers with 28 points.
In the end, both teams got the game they were looking for – a game that will prepare them for the pace and the physicality of the postseason, which begins Feb. 21.
“We treated this week like a playoff week,” Jennings said. “We faced Patterson tonight and we’ve got Modesto Christian on Friday – that’s two high-caliber opponents.
“I don’t know where we’ll be seeded when the brackets come out, but I’d like to think we’ve earned two home playoff games.”