PATTERSON — Members of the 2014 Patterson High girls basketball team are looking to one-up their coach.
“They want to go farther in the playoffs than my team did,” said Tigers coach Elizabeth Tolleson (née Reza), who guided the 2002 PHS team to the section finale.
Third-seeded Patterson is one step closer to that after a 73-55 victory over No. 6 Weston Ranch in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 quarterfinals on Thursday.
To out-do their coach, however, the Tigers have to not only reach the section final on March 7, they have to win it.
But first things first. Patterson will have to get past No. 2 seed Modesto Christian, the girls basketball gold standard in the Stanislaus District, to earn a trip to Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena, site of the section championship game.
“It’s something we wanted,” said Tolleson of her team’s Tuesday matchup against the Crusaders at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento. “It’s the only way we’re going to get better, by playing the best.”
It appeared that Weston Ranch wanted to try its luck against the best, too.
The Cougars opened the game with an aggressive full-court press that seemed to stymie the Tigers (25-4).
“We were having trouble with the press early on,” said junior guard Povai Fesili. “No team (the Western Athletic Conference) really pressed us this year. It took us a while before we got the rhythm of breaking the press.”
The press, and long-distance shooting – the Cougars hit eight 3-point field goals – kept the score close for the first three and half quarters. But eventually, Patterson began flaunting its considerable size advantage, getting good looks inside and numerous second and third chances.
“We came out kinda sloppy tonight,” said senior Mele Tupouata (12 points). “We waited until the fourth quarter to pick it up.”
Neither team had more than a four-point lead until Patterson went up 51-45 on a putback by junior forward Ariyanna Cashen. It was Cashen’s third bucket in a span of 1 minute, 45 seconds, and the Tigers led by six – 53-47 – heading into the fourth quarter.
A.J. Brown, who scored a game-high 23 points, opened the fourth quarter with five unanswered points for Weston Ranch (19-9) to cut the deficit to one. But Patterson countered with a 7-0 run and began to pull away, thanks to its work on the glass, and the Cougars’ frosty outside shooting in the final minutes.
And, four days from now, the Tigers will get their shot at Modesto Christian.
How does the old saying go? ... Be careful what you wish for.
“This is what we wanted,” said Cashen, who scored a team-high 17. “We know we have to work hard.”