HILMAR -- As the Central Catholic High players and fans were jumping around celebrating a second straight Western Athletic Conference boys' basketball title, coach Mike Wilson was injecting some words of advice.
"One more," Wilson said. "There's still one more game to win. We don't want to be sharing this again."
Last season, the Raiders were co-champions of the WAC with Livingston.
But this year, thanks to Tuesday's 46-42 victory over Hilmar in which Central held the Yellowjackets to four points over the final 9 minutes, 53 seconds, the Raiders are in position to claim an outright crown.
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Central Catholic (21-5, 12-2 WAC) needs only to win at home Friday against last-place Orestimba to secure the undisputed title.
The No. 5 seed in Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 entering play, the Raiders should move up to No. 4 since higher seeds Amador and Calaveras meet this week. The top four seeds are in position to garner two home games.
Hilmar (18-7, 10-4) could have grabbed a share beating Central and closing out the WAC's triple round-robin campaign with a victory at Patterson.
Instead, the Yellowjackets probably need to beat the Tigers to secure a single home game in the Division 4 playoffs.
Hilmar entered the week as the No. 7 team in the Division 4 power rankings, and the top eight teams get to open at home.
The Yellowjackets had a great chance to upend the Raiders. With Central spending the entire game in a collapsing zone, Hilmar had early success getting the ball into the post, then quickly outside to open perimeter players.
Josh Tung hit four 3-pointers en route to 16 points as Hilmar built a 38-31 lead with one minute, 53 seconds left in the third quarter.
Central never came out of the zone, but did flatten the top of its 2-1-2 zone to look more like a 3-2 alignment, which put a little more defensive presence on the wings.
"The 3-2 adjustment made them think a little bit," Wilson said. "We spread it out and made it look like a man-to-man, but we switched on everything."
So not only did the zone take the rhythm from the Yellowjackets' outside game, but it kept talented senior Quinton McCown in check the entire 32 minutes.
McCown, often patient and unselfish to a fault on offense, scored all six of his points during the third-quarter spurt that gave Hilmar its seven-point lead. He added 13 rebounds and six blocks.
"I think Hilmar was rushing shots and we only gave them one per possession," Wilson said. "That was the key, because we didn't shoot well, along with our hustle. We beat them to a lot of loose balls, diving and making things happen."
The Yellowjackets had no answer for Dusty Killian, whose 18 points came in typical Killian fashion -- a series of put-backs and layups from close range made possible by his knack of putting his large frame in position.
The Raiders' fourth-quarter rally didn't come in a spurt, it happened when they continued to score within the slow and steady flow of the game.
The game's final tie was forged at 40-40 with 5:11 left when Dan Hulst scored on a tip-in for the Raiders, who took the lead on a free throw two minutes later and grabbed a 3-point advantage when Liam Smith scored on a fast break with 2:37 remaining.
Hilmar misfired on its next three possessions, twice taking quick shots, then Ky Wilson iced the with by hitting one of two free throws with 11.4 seconds left.
"It seemed like all we were doing was passing the ball without driving, and then we had to throw up some shots when the clock was winding down," Freitas said.
"This was the shot we had and there are no more second chances."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.