There’s always something about the trip to Sonora that puts fear in the rest of the Valley Oak League.
A lot of it stems from coach Rick Francis always having his Wildcats ready to play. Then there’s the atmosphere, punctuated by the pep band, that is so different from most stops high school teams make during the season.
On Wednesday night, the Sonora spell again came into play as Weston Ranch — just a few days before what was expected to be a first-place showdown with Manteca — ventured into the Wildcats’ den and came out on the short end of a 61-45 decision.
Sonora (14-9, 8-4) placed four players in double figures, with Josh Martin scoring 17 points, Alex Kiriluk 15, Zach Gorgas 14 and Vicente Navarro 10. The Wildcats outscored the Cougars 36-17 in the middle two quarters to take control.
Weston Ranch (12-9, 8-2) got 17 points from Nate Moises. The Cougars play host to Ceres on Friday before staying at home for Saturday’s game against the first-place Buffaloes.
Manteca (17-5, 10-1) had an up-and-down performance in its 64-52 homecourt win against Ceres. The Buffaloes led 20-10 after one quarter, but saw the lead dwindle to one point, 44-43, entering the final eight minutes before pulling away. Kiwi Gardner had 25 points to lead Manteca, while Justin Canatsy had 19 points and John Dhillon 18 for the Bulldogs.
Sierra (16-7, 9-3) had no trouble with winless Lathrop (0-22, 0-12,) getting 16 points from Trevor Nogueira and 15 from Will Ward in a 68-31 victory.
MODESTO METRO CONFERENCE
Johansen (15-8, 4-2) maintained its share of second place as Dakarai King scored 24 points and Malachai Batt added 13 in a 75-61 victory over Enochs (12-11, 1-5.) The Vikings, who broke a two-game losing streak, led 39-15 at halftime. Scott Robertson had 16 points for Enochs.
CENTRAL CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE
Atwater (9-12, 3-5) had lost four of its previous five games before claiming a 48-41 victory at Los Banos (5-16, 1-7.) Eriq Belt had 14 points for the Falcons, who play at in-city rival Buhach Colony on Friday.