In one word, Patterson High guard Kent Foster summed up the difference between the first and second meetings of his team and Western Athletic Conference leader Central Catholic.
"Intensity," Foster said.
Foster, in very few words, was spot-on.
The Tigers' active zone defense shut down the Raiders' inside game, and Foster himself took care of much of the offense, scoring 21 points to lead Patterson to a 53-44 victory inside the Raiders' gym.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
The Tigers' win opens up the WAC race. Patterson improved to 14-5 overall and 5-2 in WAC play. Central, which saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end, is 15-4 overall and 6-1 in the WAC, making its game Tuesday at Livingston a showdown for first place between one-loss teams.
Raiders coach Mike Wilson figured his team, or any squad for that matter, would have a difficult time making a perfect run through the WAC's triple round-robin, so he stressed to his troops the importance of defending the home court.
"It's the home thing for us," Wilson said. "We don't want to have to put pressure on ourselves to win going on the road into hostile territories, which we have to face Tuesday."
Livingston will be taking some tips from the way Patterson handled its business on Saturday. The Tigers pressured Central's guards in the backcourt, and in the halfcourt challenged the Raiders to score from the outside.
Dusty Killian got his points for Central, scoring 15, mostly on putbacks, But 6-foot, 6-inch center Dan Hulst -- who had 19 points and 12 rebounds in the first meeting between these teams -- was held to seven points and did not have a field goal until the fourth quarter.
"As athletic as we are, if we stay active on defense, we're tough," said Patterson coach Tony Lomeli. "We got a lot of deflections on the passes going inside. We know that once they do get the ball inside, they're tough."
Patterson took control of the game in the second quarter by holding the Raiders without a field goal in the final 4:25 to take a 24-16 halftime lead. Then, a fast start to the second half, keyed by Foster's three-point play, gave the Tigers a 33-20 lead three minutes into the third quarter.
Despite playing without leading scorer Felix Mapanda for most of the game because of foul trouble, the Tigers never allowed Central closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"The last game, they brought the intensity," Foster said. "We just tried to match it this game."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.