Like a prizefighter who tries to impress the judges with a late flurry of punches just before the bell, Campolindo stole each quarter from Sierra High with a strong finish in the final 60 seconds.
The Timberwolves, Division II champions of the Sac-Joaquin Section, were outscored by a combined 19-3 in the final minute of the first, second, third and fourth quarters and were knocked out 73-61 in the CF Division III Northern California boys basketball regional tournament Tuesday at Campolindo High School.
“This one’s my fault,” said Sierra head coach Scott Thomason. “I didn’t prepare the guys the way they needed to be. This one’s going to burn for a while.
“But I’m real proud of the guys. They fought hard.”
Campolindo (27-4) led 54-40 going into the fourth quarter, but three-pointers from Hunter Johnson and Devin Nunes, plus a put-back from 6-foot-8, 200-pound senior Joshua Patton made it 59-51 with 4:40 to play.
Seventeen seconds later, Sierra (30-3) caught a break when Campolindo’s 6-foot-7, 245-pound Chris Hansen fouled out.
“He was pretty much the best big man I’ve faced all season, as anyone could tell tonight,” said Patton, who will play next year at Sacramento State. “He used his weight on me, and he really knew how to move.”
Hansen torched the T’wolves for 16 points and 13 rebounds in the first half, including several deft passes to teammates cutting toward the rim.
“It was hard to score around the basket,” said Thomason. “Part of it was getting no calls, part of it was having no shots. But you have to give Campolindo credit. They won the game.”
Hansen went to the bench with his fourth foul with seven minutes to play in the contest and he checked back in when Patton cut the deficit to eight.
He fouled out with 4:23 to play, finishing his night with 20 points. Sierra’s Jess Spivey hit the ensuing free throws to make it 59-53.
All looked right for Sierra … until Austin Clarke decided to make his presence felt.
The 6-foot-6 senior came down and nailed a three-pointer from the left wing to make it 62-53. After a Sierra basket, Clarke connected on another trey, this one from the right wing, to push the lead back to double digits. Clarke finished the game with 13 points.
“Their defense collapsed and it just so happened that I was open,” said Clarke, whose father is St. Mary’s College assistant coach Marty Clarke. “I was really impressed with them as a team. I really didn’t know what to expect, but they really took it to us. They were hard to handle.”
Daniel Wyatt led Sierra with 17 points, while Spivey and Johnson finished with 12 apiece. Nunes was the fourth member of the squad to score in double figures with 11.
“They were one of the most physical teams we’ve faced,” said Wyatt, a junior. “They were big down there and they outscrapped us tonight and I felt like we got a little down on ourselves when we got down early.”
Soon enough, it will be time to reflect on this historic season, and surely all the T’wolves will be content with what they accomplished.
“We’re never satisfied and we always want more, but a section title and 30 wins, that’s not a bad season,” said Wyatt. “I’ll take that any day.”