SACRAMENTO — The Golden 1 Center, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, is most decidedly unlike the cozy confines of Bud Castle Gymnasium in Sonora.
Back at Sonora High, Wildcats coach Lloyd Longaway always has the gym’s scoreboard in his line of vision. At Golden 1, however, the scoreboard sits 30 feet above the arena floor, perpetually out of the coach’s sightline.
Lucky for Longeway that he couldn’t see what the scoreboard indicated against Liberty Ranch in Thursday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV boys basketball final … that his team was a point away from blowing a 17-point cushion.
“I didn’t even realize we were up 17,” said Longeway after his team defeated the Hawks 70-57 for a second consecutive season in the D-IV title game. “It’s weird, with the scoreboard really high here, you can’t even see it. And it’s kind of a benefit for me because it’s not right there … like a normal high school gym it’s right there and you’re looking at it the whole time. So I didn’t really stress on it too much.”
What was directly in Longeway’s line of sight, however, was the highly anticipated matchup of Patterson vs. Patterson — Sonora’s Austin Patterson, who entered the championship averaging 25 points per game, and Liberty Ranch’s Jalen Patterson, the section’s leading scorer at better than 28 points a contest.
Sonora’s Patterson finished 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Liberty Ranch’s Patterson was held to 22, six below his season average.
“I just really wanted to make sure that we had a good chance at a section championship,” said Darius O’Neal, who was tasked with defending Patterson most of the contest. “If I could limit his points — he had 42 against the first time that we played them — and to get anything under that helped us out a lot.”
Liberty Ranch defeated Sonora 86-83 in overtime at Modesto Christian’s Holiday Hoops Classic last December, with Jalen Patterson scoring a season-high in the process.
That was the Wildcats’ last loss of the season, and Thursday night marked their 19th consecutive victory since falling to the Hawks at the MC tourney.
For his part, Austin Patterson tried not to get caught up in the individual duel.
“We’ve been playing against each other since eighth grade or my freshman year,” said Patterson, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in last year’s section finale. “It’s just a name, really. I mean, he’s a great player. I’m a great player. We battled it out tonight and we just luckily came out with the ‘dub.’"
No. 1 Ripon Christian 73, No. 2 Stockton Christian 56
No. 1 Sonora 70, No. 3 Liberty Ranch 57
No. 1 Argonaut 45, No. 2 El Dorado 37
No. 2 Central Catholic vs. No. 1 Vanden, 4 p.m.
No. 5 Merced vs. No. 2 Christian Brothers, 2 p.m.