MANTECA – Now that they sealed the outright Valley Oak League championship, the Weston Ranch Cougars are thinking big.
The Cougars (26-1,11-0), ranked 16th among all state schools by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 1 in the FrontRowPreps.com, are gunning for an Open Division berth in the postseason.
“Hell, yeah!” Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan exclaimed. “We want to play against the best. If we lose, we’ll learn from it and come back next year.”
The Sac-Joaquin Section bracket comes first, of course, but the Cougars can’t be blamed for feeling confident. They didn’t celebrate much after their 25th straight win Tuesday night, a 59-49 victory at Manteca. Clearly, their goals are set far past the VOL level.
Weston Ranch never trailed after the opening minutes at Winter Gym and muzzled a Manteca crowd waiting to launch major decibel levels. The Cougars controlled the game behind junior forward Gavin Wilburn and 6-foot-1 sophomore Donjae’ Lindsey, who imposed their will at both ends.
Lindsey, versatile enough to drain long-range shots and still work efficiently inside 10 feet, gathered 19 points. Wilburn, seemingly pulling down every important rebound, finished with 13 points.
More important, the Weston Ranch tandem contained Manteca’s 6-4 Domonick Victor and senior guard Jorge Cedano (13 points). The Buffalo pair combined for 46 points during Weston Ranch’s hard-fought 78-76 win on Jan. 26.
Wilburn, closely shadowing Victor in the rematch, limited him to only three points, 12 below his average. Victor managed only one score from the floor, a rim-high finish off a pass from Miguel Sequeira (12 points) during the second half.
“Tonight it was ‘Contain 24 (Cedano) and don’t let 21 (Domonick Victor) get anything,’” Wilburn said. “I like hostile environments. I heard the crowd talking some smack. It made me do what I had to do.”
Weston Ranch started on-point and netted five 3-point baskets during the game’s first 10 minutes to lead 21-7. Wilburn’s third foul, a charge, sent him to the bench for the final 5:16 of the half and the Buffaloes responded.
Isaiah Victor, Manteca’s leading scorer with 14 points, hit a triple and a four-footer to pull the home team to within 28-24 at the break.
But Wilburn – who plays bigger than his 6-3 frame – joined with Lindsey to stabilize the Cougars. Wilburn’s drive and three-point play increased the lead to 47-36 after three quarters, and Weston Ranch spread the floor and controlled the pace over the final eight minutes.
Wilburn won a 50-50 ball over Domonick Victor in the corner and rifled a pass to Mi’Son Coilton (11points) for a layup with 3:10 left to extend the lead to 54-43.
“We knew it would be a little less scoring tonight,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “They did a good job taking away our transition game and we got a little selfish. Wilburn is probably the (VOL) MVP. He helps them in multiple ways.”
Weston Ranch’s defense was not an accident. It limited second-place Central Catholic to only 39 points during a pivotal win last week in Modesto.
A week later, the Cougars held Manteca 14 points below its average.
Which allowed the Cougars, who finish VOL play Thursday at Sierra, to think ahead.
“You don’t win that many games in a row without doing fourt things—offense, defense, rebounding and being a good teammate,” Teevan said.
Weston Ranch 15 13 19 12 — 59
Manteca 7 17 12 13 — 49
Weston Ranch (26-1, 11-0 VOL) – Donjae’ Lindsey 19, Gavin Wilburn13, Mi’Son Coilton 11, Titus Haley 7, Lydell King 3, Devin Small 2, Da’QuanKelly 2, Rau Melgarejo 2. Totals 23 6-14 59.
Manteca (18-9, 7-4 VOL) – Isaiah Victor 14, Jorge Cedano 13,Miguel Sequeira 12, Jordan Burciaga 5, Domonick Victor 3, Rashawn Ballard 2.Totals 10-15 49.
3-Pt Goals – WR 7 (Haley 2, Lindsey 2, King, Wilburn,Coilton), Manteca 3 (Sequeira, Burciaga, I. Victor). Team Fouls – WR 16, Manteca 17. Fouled Out—No one.
JV – Manteca, 56-39.