MANTECA — Sonora High coach Rick Francis knew his club had little hope of staying with Christian Williams once the guard penetrated the key.
"We can't give up the middle penetration to Christian, he's too quick with the ball," Francis said. " Matt Relei did an admirable job, keeping him away most of the night."
Williams made his infrequent drives count, scoring 24 points as No. 3-ranked Sierra beat Sonora 62-58 to stay atop the Valley Oak League.
Sierra (16-4, 8-1) is tied with rival Manteca (19-3, 8-1) — Sonora (14-6, 6-3) is now two back — and the crosstown rivals play Friday at Manteca. The Buffs won 59-38 three weeks ago, but Williams says it will be different this time.
"We're playing a lot better now. We're shooting better, playing better defense," Williams said. "You'll see a much better team on Friday night."
The T'wolves were forced to survive a last minute scare before they could start thinking about avenging their loss.
Williams made two conventional 3-point plays, getting fouled while hitting a shot, in the final minute of the third quarter for a 45-41 lead. Sierra began the fourth quarter with a 10-4 run for a 55-45 lead and appeared to have control.
Matt Relei hit two treys in the final period, though, and Sonora got within 59-58 on Zach Gorgas' off-balance put-back with 26 seconds left. Williams hit three free throws, however, to seal the victory.
"You don't want your leader peeing his panties with the game on the line," said Williams, 9 of 10 from the line.
He spent much of his night on the perimeter, but exploited the few chances he had to attack the basket — particularly late in the third quarter.
Williams got past Relei on the dribble and was undercut while hitting a layup, and his free throw made it 42-39. The next trip down, he feigned a hard drive and — with Relei backpedaling — pulled up for a jumper while being hit on the elbow with 1 second left. The free throw made it 45-39.
It was a good night for Williams: Sierra won and he won his personal battle with Sonora's Brenden Evans. Though they rarely went one-on-one, the game was all about them.
The 6-foot-5-inch Evans had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
MANTECA 86, CENTRAL VALLEY 76, at Ceres — Kiwi Gardner scored 29 points and Nick Scheible had 27 as the Buffaloes (19-3, 8-1 VOL) ran past the Hawks (11-12, 3-6 VOL). Trevor Mew scored 23 points to lead Central Valley.
DAVIS 57, DOWNEY 54 (2OT), at Downey — Lance Casteneda scored a game-high 20 points, including three of his team's six points in the second overtime period, as the Spartans (13-9, 4-2 Modesto Metro Conference) escaped with a victory over the Knights (9-13, 2-4).
Downey missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds of double overtime in an effort to tie the game.
Ryan Michael extended the game to double overtime on a play that likely left both coaches scratching their heads. With 5 seconds left and Davis trailing by three, Michael attempted a 15-foot, 2-point jumper from the baseline. He was fouled on the made bucket, however, and tied the game at 51-51 with the free throw. Michael, who had 15 points, also sent the game into the first overtime with two free throws to tie the game with 17 seconds to go in regulation.
BEYER 73, MODESTO 55, at Modesto — Bryan Garbez scored 15 of his 25 points in the first half to help keep the Panthers winless in the MMC.
DAVIS 73, ENOCHS 3, at Davis — The Spartans sealed the undefeated MMC season with the victory over the Eagles. Davis will be at Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section team duals in Sacramento.
ESCALON 65, MARIPOSA 9, at Escalon — The Cougars (5-0) won the Trans-Valley League title convincingly over the Grizzlies (4-1).
College Men's Basketball
WEST HILLS 62, COLUMBIA 59, at Sonora — The Claim Jumpers led 31-26 at halftime, but were overcome in the second half on the strength of Jeremy LaGarde scoring 12 of his 15 points for the Falcons. Mike McElroy scored 15 points and had five assists for Columbia (4-20, 1-7 CVC).
College Women's Basketball
MERCED 64, SEQUOIAS 57, at Merced — Tianra Dunson led the Blue Devils (15-12, 5-1 Central Valley Conference) with 12 points in a win over the Giants (14-11, 3-3 CVC).
MERCED 8, MONTEREY PENINSULA 3, at Monterey — Hunter Adrian got the Blue Devils started with a solo homer in the first inning. John Canepa hit RBI singles in the fifth and eighth inning and stole two bases.