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Top small-school team survives a scare, TVL title contenders on collision course

James Burns
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Comprised of teams from the Central California Athletic Alliance, Mother Lode League, Southern League and Trans-Valley League. Last week’s ranking and current record in parenthesis.

1. (1) Sonora (21-4, 7-1): The Wildcats survived an overtime thriller with Argonaut, then the No.2-ranked team in the region. Sonora outscored the Mustangs 10-7 in the overtime period to create a little separation atop the MLL standings. "That was the league championship and we knew what was at stake," junior Austin Patterson said. "It was a close game the whole way." Argonaut led by eight with 2 minutes left, but Patterson, the Wildcats' leading scorer, scored 10 points down the stretch and sent the game into overtime with a layup with only 7 seconds left. Patterson finished with 28. The Wildcats, winners of seven straight, can clinch a share of the league on Tuesday at Amador.

Ripon Christian senior Cade Alger averaged 21 points per game in three victories last week for the Trans-Valley League-leading Knights. (Briggs Photography)

2. (3) Ripon Christian (18-7, 10-0): The Knights sit in the driver’s seat in the Trans-Valley League with two games remaining but those two games are biggies: at Riverbank , the third-place team in league, and at home versus across-the-street rival Ripon, which sits one game back of the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI champions. Six-foot-7 senior Cade Alger stood tall for the Knights during a 3-0 week, averaging 21 points per game.

3. (4) Ripon (15-11, 9-1): The Indians kept pace in the TVL with victories over Riverbank, Escalon and Hughson. Ripon knocked down 14 3-pointers in the rivalry win over Escalon, tying a school record. The Indians shot 14 of 29 from beyond the arc. Senior Adam Wood led the long-distance barrage with four 3-pointers. Four others had at least two 3s, including three by sophomore Malik Taylor. It’s an encouraging sign for coach Justin Graham, who already boasts the best big man in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section in 6-9 Vincent Olmo.

4. (2) Argonaut (16-9, 6-2): The Mustangs pushed top-ranked Sonora to overtime in a loss, but remain in the title hunt entering the final week of the regular season. Argonaut rebounded from the loss with victories over Calaveras and Bradshaw Christian. The Mustangs separated from Calaveras, a former top-five program, with a 14-2 push to end the third quarter.

5. (5) Mariposa (20-5, 10-0): The Grizzlies clinched the Southern League championship with a rivalry win at Le Grand on Friday, but won’t cruise into the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason. Mariposa has a tough home date with Waterford and the section’s leading scorer Michael Vivo (28.7 points) on Wednesday. Vivo has scored 30 or mores points 13 times this season, including a high of 49 in a double-OT win at Orestimba last week. The Wildcats need a win to bolster their playoff resume.

Follow James Burns on Twitter @jburns1980, or email him at frontrowpreps@gmail.com.