DENAIR -- Mason Wooten and Tim Oswald launched their rivalry as freshmen on the junior varsity, an early sign that both players were destined for success.
"I always like playing against Tim, because I enjoy comparing my game to his," said Wooten, Denair High's 6-foot-5-inch senior forward. "It means a little extra when we play Mariposa."
While each player has won his share of individual battles, the ultimate prize has always gone to Oswald -- his team has never lost against Wooten and the Coyotes.
Oswald's Grizzlies maintained their perfect mark Tuesday, pulling away in the second half for a 69-54 win to clinch an outright Southern League title.
It was the 17th win in a row for Mariposa (19-4, 12-0), and Oswald -- as he has been for many of those wins -- was at the center of the Grizzlies' success.
"Just about everything we do goes through Tim," coach Trace DeSandres said after his 6-3 senior point guard finished with 15 points, six assists, two steals and 13 rebounds. "He's our top scorer, our leading rebounder ... but what makes us good as a team is that he gets everyone involved."
After Wooten had led a Denair (11-12, 6-6) rally in the third quarter, hitting a 22-foot trey for a 32-31 lead, Oswald made sure Mariposa didn't trail for long.
He drove to the basket and, as the defense shifted to him, fired a pass across the key to Marcus Rochelle. The center hit a layup to put Mariposa ahead for good.
Oswald pulled a similar move later in the third quarter, this time hitting 6-4 sophomore Cody Wichmann (16 points), and then hit a 3-pointer for a 45-38 lead.
It was the 10th consecutive victory for Oswald in his individual duels with Wooten, who finished with 15 points, six rebounds, two steals and seven blocked shots.
"Mason's great to play against, always has been," Oswald said. "I think the difference is we've had better teams, executed our game plan better, so we've won."
The Stanislaus District's No. 5 scorer at 21.3 points per game, Wooten was 6 of 15 from the floor with three treys despite constant harassment by the Grizzlies.
"Everyone in this league knows what Mason can do if he gets the ball, so we worked real hard at keeping him from it," DeSandres said. "You saw him step out and hit some 3s, even with the attention we paid him."
Wooten's most impressive sequence keyed Denair's rally. He grabbed a rebound and dribbled up the left side, as Oswald raced over. When Oswald tried to pin him against the sideline, Wooten dribbled behind his back to get away from the trap -- and hit his go-ahead 3 moments later.
On the defensive end, Wooten continued his impressive string of performances. He topped his average of 5.4 blocks, and was only whistled for one foul.
The spring in his step and his long arms allowed Wooten to swat away shots, as he went vertical -- rather than toward the shooter -- to redirect shots.
"As a sophomore, I was swinging at people to block their shots and I got into foul trouble," Wooten said. "People say I have freakishly long arms, so I use them."