Sonora wins it slow, steady

SONORA -- With 10 seconds remaining and a 57-47 victory in hand, Sonora High's Brenden Evans broke Patterson's press and got out on a two-on-one fast break with teammate Matt Relei.

Evans gave up the ball early to Relei, hoping for a return lob pass and a dunk that would add a flourish to what they both knew was probably their final home game of the season.

Instead, Relei faked the pass and pulled the ball out to chew up the final seconds.

The lob? It wasn't in Wednesday's game plan. In fact, the Wildcats' strategy was exactly the opposite. Instead of attacking the basket after breaking the Tigers' press, Sonora was very content to set up their offense.

The ploy not only forced Patterson to play 32 minutes of defense, but tilted the pace of the game very much in favor of the Wildcats in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III first-round playoff game.

"They wanted us to go to the basket," Relei said. "We were told just to back it up, and that can be hard because you see the basket and you might have an open path. But for an athletic team like Patterson, you have to back it up."

Sonora (18-8 and the No. 7 seed) earned a second-round game Friday night in Loomis against No. 2-seed Del Oro. Patterson, the No. 11 seed, finished the season 18-8, despite getting 20 points from senior swingman Felix Mapanda and 14 from junior guard Kent Foster.

The Tigers were on the short end of the scoreboard for the final 28 minutes, but the deficit never got out of hand until the opening three minutes of the fourth quarter. Patterson had two possessions late in the third quarter while trailing by only one point, but Sonora got a big 3-pointer from Alex Kiriluk to take a 38-34 lead after three quarters.

The Wildcats then took control early in the fourth quarter, when Relei hit two 3-pointers -- the second with 4:39 left that gave Sonora its first double-digit lead at 48-38. On both occasions, the Wildcats broke the Patterson press with ease, then worked the offense down to 10 seconds on the clock before finding Relei open on the wing.

"Our idea is not so much getting the steal, but getting the other team to shoot quickly," said Patterson coach Tony Lomeli. "We were able to do that at the end of the third quarter, but they were able to calm down and keep their heads."

Evans, a 6-5 forward who has given his verbal commitment to play at Cal State Stanislaus next year, led the Wildcats with 18 points. Relei had four 3-pointers and finished with 15 points. Of those 33 combined points, maybe two came via the fast break.

"My philosophy is always to make the other team play defense -- pull it out and make them move for 10 or 12 seconds," said Sonora coach Rick Francis. "We can't run with people, although some of the guys in here think they can."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at or 578-2300.

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