Vanden High attacks foes with the playing characteristics common to so many elite girls’ basketball teams.
They press, they play with a high level of intensity and they lose very little when they go to the bench. Patterson knew all of that, and prepared of it.
But what the Tigers couldn’t prepare for was a Vikings perimeter onslaught, so when Vanden hit six three-pointers while forcing nine turnovers in the first quarter, this game was all but over.
No, it WAS over, with Vanden’s 85-46 victory on Tuesday advancing it to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game Friday night at Sleep Train Arena.
“It was the quickness, and we thought they had only a couple of three-point shooters when everybody on their team can shoot,” said senior Ariyanna Cashen, who led Patterson with 18 points. “That was a surprise, and that’s how we dug the hole.”
Four different Vikings connected from long-range in the opening 6 minutes, 30 seconds, allowing Vanden to roll out to a 29-7 lead. And then it got bad, as Patterson started to panic against the press and the Vikings took a 44-13 advantage less than midway through the second quarter.
“That was very overwhelming,” said Tigers coach Elizabeth Tolleson. “We went over everything Vanden was going to do in practice. But coming here into this atmosphere and having to play here, well, I think we were in the game physically but not mentally.”
Such is the new challenge for Tolleson and Patterson. The Tigers were disappointed and even a bit demoralized after getting crushed by the Vikings, and the team’s goal of playing on an NBA floor in a section final is gone.
But the season isn’t over, and the squad must regroup for at least one more game. Patterson will find out Sunday afternoon where it will play in next Wednesday’s first round of the NorCal Division III playoffs. All they know is that it won’t be a home game, and their opponent likely will have some of the same attributes they couldn’t overcome on Tuesday.
“We have to learn from this, and we’ll be watching a lot of game film so we can see exactly what we were doing wrong, learn from it and make the adjustments,” Tolleson said. “Then, once we learn where we have to go next week, wherever that might be, we’ll be mentally and physically prepared.”
Sierra 76, Vanden 72 (OT) – The Valley Oak League has been touted all season as the toughest in the Stanislaus District, and now the rest of the section knows it.
Last Friday, Weston Ranch knocked out top-seeded Christian Brothers. The Timberwolves’ victory over the No. 2-seeded Vikings, coming in the first of two boys’ Division III semifinals, guaranteed an all-VOL title game Friday night at Sleep Train since Manteca and Weston Ranch battled in the other semifinal.
“We’re always trying to get some respect, and how good are we to go 14-0 in this good league,” said Sierra coach Scott Thomason. “We’re 53-3 the last four years in the league.
“I could care less who we play. We’ve beaten both teams on our home court and both teams on their home court and now we’re going to beat one of them on a neutral court.”
Sierra (28-2) shredded Vanden’s full-court pressure for a series of layups and surged to a 44-25 lead midway through the third quarter. But the Vikings (24-6) were bound to have a surge, and it happened when Timberwolves starters Jess Spivey and Joshua Patton got into foul trouble.
Vanden guard DeMarre Walker sent the game into overtime at 63-63 on a three-pointer with 33 seconds left, and the Vikings took their first lead since the first quarter, 66-65, on a trey by Phoenix Shackleford 36 seconds into the extra session.
But with the game tied 66-66, Daniel Wyatt drilled a three-pointer with 1:21 left and Hunter Johnson followed with another shot from long range with 35 seconds remaining for an air-tight 72-66 lead. Vanden made the final score close with two three-pointers in the final 13 seconds, but never had a chance to tie.
Wyatt finished with 23 points, Johnson 18, Devin Nunez 12 and Patton 10 for Sierra. Walker had 26 for Vanden.
“I’ve coached 15 years and I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a team than I am right now,” Thomason said. “The results we had after facing adversity ... were we up 20 at one point? Just the fight, the heart and the passion from our guys was unbelievable.”
Weston Ranch 61, Manteca 41 – As the No. 9 seed, the Cougars’ path to Sleep Train has been blazed in the bus lane.
They won at Central Valley, took out top-seeded Christian Brothers in their gym and capped it with the 20-point victory over a Buffalos team that had won both previous meetings by double digits.
And in beating Manteca, Weston Ranch turned over a new leaf. The run-and-gun Cougars turned to a slow-down attack in the fourth quarter designed to minimize possessions once they got the lead.
But this hardly was a 20-point game. Manteca (22-7), which trailed 18-4 after the first quarter, dominated the next 12 minutes and grabbed a 32-21 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter.
But Weston Ranch (20-10) scored the final nine points of the third quarter and then set out to control the pace in the fourth quarter. That meant it was Jaelen Ragsdale’s time.
“When you have a point guard, you can control the pace because it allows you to get good shots at the end of the shot clock,” said Cougars coach Chris Teevan, a graduate of Beyer High, Modesto Junior College and CSU Stanislaus.
Holding onto a 45-37 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Cougars probably even surprised themselves how successful they were in the deliberate half-court game as they slowly pulled away during the game-ending 16-4 run.
“You have to kill demons sometime,” Teevan said. “I’m so happy for the kids. They made the plays and I didn’t draw up any of them.”
Ragsdale finished with 23 points, while Fred Lavender added 11 and Josh Dilg 10. Frankie Lopez had 10 for the Buffalos.
Weston Ranch was swept in two VOL games by Sierra, losing 53-51 in the Timberwolves’ gym on Jan. 30, and falling 70-56 at home on Feb. 13. But after winning three games away from home in the playoffs, all by double digits, this is a confident and able group.
“In these past few games, we’ve played at a certain level and a very high level defensively,” Teevan said. “Now we have to do it for a fourth time. It’s not about matchups anymore because everybody is good.”