RIPON -- Austin Patterson knows the biggest difference between this year’s Sonora High boys basketball team and the one that won a Sac-Joaquin Section title in 2019 isn’t his growth as a scorer.
Or a defender
Or a leader.
In fact, the difference has nothing to do with Patterson, a red-headed assassin and arguably the region’s top talent.
It’s all about Devon Dye, an energetic 6-foot-8 center that jams the lane, extends possessions and allows the Wildcats to go inside-outside like never before.
Though he was raised in Sonora, Dye wasn’t a member of the Sonora’s Division IV championship team last season. He was living in Redding at the time.
He's back now and finding ways to impact the game, whether it's dancing during timeouts to the amusement of his teammates or providing a balance on the offensive end. Dye finished with just eight points during Thursday's 68-51 triumph at Ripon Christian, but he had six in the first quarter as the Knights keyed on Patterson.
Sonora led wire to wire and emptied the bench, snapping Ripon Christian’s six-game winning streak and dropped the Knights to 1-3 against the Mother Lode League.
Patterson credited Sonora’s ability to play through the post -- namely Dye -- for its 14th victory.
Sharp-shooting guard Jonathan Mayben led Sonora with 23 points. He had four of the team’s seven 3-pointers, many of them kick-out passes.
“I feel like we’ve got a lot more size, for sure, and I feel like that’s really helped us,” said Patterson, who flirted with a double-double in the Wildcats’ fifth consecutive win.
“Last year we didn’t really insert it into the post. Now we’re entering it into the post, defenders are dropping and we’re getting a lot more open shots. It’s working really well for us. I’m excited to see what the outcome is.”
An electric scorer with a nearly unblockable jumper, Patterson was blanketed by Ripon Christian guard Will Gilbert, a standout defensive back for the football team.
Patterson didn’t convert his first field goal until there was seconds left in the first quarter. He finished with 21 points, but spent most of the night facilitating others. He had seven assists, including four in the first quarter, and five rebounds.
Callahan Hanson had nine points and Spencer Coppello had five points off the bench.
Even with a quiet night from Patterson, Sonora still ran its lead up to 20 against a quality small-school opponent and inserted reserves with more than two minutes remaining.
“Not everyone is going to have a 25-plus night,” Patterson said. “People know about me. I’m going to get face-guarded, so it’s super helpful to have other guys who can score the ball.
“I know we’ll get open shots. I trust my teammates and I know they’ll make the right plays.”
Gilbert sparked the Knights at both ends of the court. He led the team with 16 points on a game-high five 3-pointers. Braden Van Groningen chipped in 15.