STOCKTON – Dayton Magana has counted down the seconds to himself more than once – game on the line, 3-2-1 and then he lets if fly as the horn sounds. Variations on this theme have been practiced by nearly everyone who’s laced up sneakers.
Magana, the tenacious Central Catholic senior guard, lived that moment in real time Friday night. And it will go down as Dayton’s Dagger.
His arcing 40-foot runner, unleashed not far from the scorers table, ripped the bottom of the net as time expired. Central Catholic 74, Weston Ranch 72.
“You never think it would actually happen,” Magana admitted in the darkness outside the Cougars’ gym. “I didn’t get to see it in the air. I just saw it drop straight through.”
Magana finished with 22 points, but few in the raucous WR gym will remember the first 19. The last three, however, clinched at least a Valley Oak League co-title for the Raiders (19-7, 10-0) with two games left.
That Magana toppled tall odds needs no embellishment. Then again, he leaned hard on four seasons of varsity experience. When Weston Ranch senior Gavin Wilburn (27 points) drove and scored for a 72-71 Weston Ranch lead with 5 seconds to go, Magana didn’t blink.
He maneuvered down the sideline past the Cougars’ Mison Coilton (22 points) and somehow launched the ball with two defenders nearby but unable to contest. Nailing shots on the run is his trademark, but from a stride or so inside half-court?
Magana’s momentum carried him beyond the baseline where, after the shot nestled home, he was tackled by his teammates.
“Dayton is not afraid to take that shot,” said CC coach Mike Wilson, who liked the chaos after Wilburn’s hoop and elected not to use his final timeout. “As long as you compete, it gives you that chance. I love him (Magana) for that. I never yell at him for not trying.”
The VOL classic, a proper encore to the Raiders’ 62-61 win over Weston Ranch nearly a month ago, exceeded its billing. Central Catholic greeted the home team with its best half of the season as Magana, Arvind Sandhu (21 points), Dalton Durossette (12 points), Matt Govea (10 points) and 6-foot-6 post Nic Sani took turns breaking down the Cougars defense.
The Raiders unnerved Weston Ranch, which was whistled for three technical fouls during the first half. The result was a shocking 46-28 lead at the break.
Worse for Weston Ranch, its leading scorer Donjae’ Lindsey fouled out without a point less than two minutes into the second half. Undaunted, the Cougars (15-11, 8-2) responded with a comeback worthy of a defending VOL and Sac-Joaquin Section champion.
Jordahn Johnson (14 points) tipped and pounded for inside baskets while Wilburn jolted the Raiders for a steal and slam dunk. Coilton connected for triples while Wilburn, dynamic and determined, eventually fouled out Sani.
The lead changed hands six times in the final 1:31. The pace reminded observers of the body blows these teams have exchanged in recent years. Not surprisingly, Weston Ranch’s animated coach Chris Teevan was left red-eyed at game’s end.
“Both teams are littered with championships players. Both programs are championship programs,” Teevan said. “They deserved to win that game as much as we deserved it. …You’re never out of a game with kids like (ours).”
Magana recalled Weston Ranch’s three wins last season over Central Catholic, the third in a lopsided section Division III final. The math says the Raiders need another win, but …
“After that shot” Magana said, “I think it evens it out.”
Central Catholic 74, Weston Ranch 72
Central Catholic 21-25-10-18 – 74
Weston Ranch 16-12-20-24– 72
Central Catholic (19-7, 10-0) – Dayton Magana 22, Arvind Sandhu 21, Dalton Durossette 12, Matt Govea 10. Nic Sani 9. Totals 24 19-24 74.
Weston Ranch (15-11, 8-2) – Gavin Wilburn 27, Mison Coilton 22, Jordahn Johnson 14, Kodey Weary 6, Titus Haley 3. Totals 26 13-22 72.
3-Pt Goals -- CC 7 (Magana 3, Sandhu 2, Govea 2), WR 7 (Coilton 4, Wilburn 2, Haley). Team Fouls -- CC 18, WR 20. Fouled Out – Sani (CC), Lindsey (WR).
JV – WR, 51-49