Tigers grasp league title

PATTERSON — It was just one possession late in the first half of the game for a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship, but it said volumes.

Members of the Patterson High boys basketball team didn't shoot very well in the first half against Livingston, but Tigers came out of nowhere, grabbing offensive rebound after offensive rebound.

In that one possession, with just more than 2 minutes left in the half, Patterson grabbed five offensive rebounds. Felix Mapanda closed it out, scoring on a put-back while getting fouled.

Mapanda led the way with 17 points and 14 rebounds in the Tigers' 68-41 victory over the Wolves at Patterson High.

With the win, Patterson (21-5, 12-2) grabbed at least a share of the WAC championship. The Tigers will win it outright with a Friday home victory against Hilmar. Livingston (14-12, 11-3) fell to second place and is in danger of missing the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason.

The Tigers did it with their defense and their transition game, forcing the Wolves into a running tempo they weren't used to. It cost them, especially on the boards.

"I think Robby (Samano) had three consecutive offensive rebounds on that one possession," said Mapanda, a 6-foot-5 junior. "We got contributions from everybody. This was a team win."

The victory was set in motion Saturday, when Tigers coach Tony Lomeli took his team to see community college men's basketball power Fresno City host Porterville.

"(Fresno has) one of the most ferocious defenses around," Lomeli said. "We try to run the same thing, but they run it to perfection."

Tuesday, the Tigers forced countless turnovers while keeping the game at a frenetic pace.

"We were out of sync early," Livingston coach Angelo Naldi said. "Patterson came at us hard and we got caught up in it. That tempo's too much for us."

Mapanda and Samano (15 points) were the main beneficiaries. The Wolves' offense, which runs through 6-5 junior Harnarinder Johal, was shackled. It stalled even further while Johal (10 points) was spending large chunks of time on the bench with foul trouble.

"We've come a long way," Lomeli said. "Now we've got another big one at home against Hilmar. That's a must-win, we want to win this league title by ourselves."