Elizabeth Tolleson has a nice problem on her hands.
The Patterson High School girls basketball coach has a player who might be as talented as any in the area, which normally means a player who considers hoisting shot after shot as a birthright.
But that’s not the way senior point guard Povai Fesili likes to play, and it’s not the way she led her Tigers to a 63-42 victory over Lincoln in Tuesday’s first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
“She’s too unselfish, and that’s something we fight over,” Tolleson said. “She’s a true point guard, and I’d like her to shoot more and become more of an offensive threat.”
As it was, Fesili led her team with 16 points – all within the game’s natural flow – and continually found and fed open teammates.
“With this team, we have great chemistry within the starting five and with the backups,” said Fesili, who transferred to Patterson from Modesto High before her junior year. “I know how they play and they all know how I play, which is to give up the ball a lot. I like to give the ball away and let my teammates get their points, because I know my points eventually will come.”
Typical Tigers play was on display during the game-clinching sequence. Patterson (25-3) led wire-to-wire, but hot outside shooting by the Zebras (17-11) kept Lincoln within 25-20 with 3:12 left in the second quarter.
By halftime, the game was over. Four Patterson players had great looks at the basket and converted them all during a half-ending 12-0 run, and when Fesili scored twice and had two assists to Ariyanna Cashen (15 points) to open the second half, the Tigers had a 45-24 lead.
“I could tell they had the jitters before the game because they were all antsy, like they were more excited to play than ready to play,” Tolleson said. “That told me that they would try to come out and do too much instead of letting the game come to them. Once we calmed down in the second quarter, everything we were trying to do came into play.”
And it helps when the best player on the court is handling the ball and directing traffic for your team.
“Povai is one of those one-in-a-lifetime kind of players,” Tolleson said. “I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever get a 5-11 point guard with as much ability and strength and moves as she has. It took her a while last year to get our system, but once she did and it clicked, she became a phenomenal player.”
Next up for the Tigers is Weston Ranch in a rematch of a second-round game from last season, won 73-55 by Patterson. Since the Tigers’ shot at winning a section title was ended in the next round by Modesto Christian, and since the the Crusaders have moved up to Division II, how far can Patterson go?
“As long as we come out strong and ready to execute,” Fesili said, “I think we can dominate teams.”