FOLSOM -- The Weston Ranch boys basketball team took its second step toward a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title with a 60-53 victory at third-seeded Folsom, overcoming a bout of nerves to stun a Northern California powerhouse.
Folsom entered the game 22-6 overall and ranked No. 4 in the Sac-Joaquin Section, according to MaxPreps’ computer poll. Winners of the Sierra Foothill League and riding an 11-game win streak, the Bulldogs took the floor against Weston Ranch with an opportunity to knock the Cougars out of the tournament and continue their quest to become section champions. They also had a 77-54 victory over the Cougars as the two teams met on Jan. 2.
As an opponent, Weston Ranch, the Valley Oak League's runnerup, had a big challenge.
The Cougars, playing in the Division I tournament because of last year's foray into the CIF State Open Tournament, looked to get rolling early as previous slow starts have cost them dearly against tougher opponents. And although the Cougars have had some big wins this year against similar types of schools (San Leandro, Moreau Catholic, and St. Patricks St. Vincent) they found themselves seeded 14th, having to play a "play-in" game on Tuesday, and the formidable task of playing Folsom.
Two things worked in Weston Ranch's favor on Wednesday night: One, they have played Folsom before and, two, they played Folsom in Folsom's gym. And as the evening moved along, the Cougars proved their early losses helped them grow as a team, and this growth was a catalyst for the upset.
Led by Junior Donjae' Lindsey and his 20 points, the Cougars outscored the Bulldogs every quarter and snuffed out every Bulldog attempt to get the lead. Lindsey, who was challenged the night before by head coach Chris Teevan to play a complete game on Wednesday, accepted the command and helped the Cougars get off to a great start and an early 20-16 first-quarter lead.
"We wanted and needed a better game from Donjae' tonight," Teevan said. "Against Chavez, Donjae' didn't give us his best, and we needed his best tonight."
Lindsey's hot start was just one of the bright spots during the first quarter for the Cougars. Junior Mi'Son Coilton (14 points) hit a big 3-pointer as both teams traded baskets and helped push the Cougar lead to four as the quarter ended. Senior Gavin Wilburn (12 points) added five first-quarter points, and the game was on. The Bulldogs played from behind the rest of the way.
"I didn't play well Tuesday against Chavez," said Lindsey, the FrontRowPreps.com player of the game. "I wasn't involved much, but I knew I had to step it up tonight, and I did. It feels really good to help our team get this win tonight."
Wednesday’s win showed just how far Weston Ranch has come since opening the season 4-9. Since then, the Cougars have won 14 of their last 16 games.
"The growth of this team since January has been remarkable," Teevan said. "We told our guys it's not how you were playing earlier, but how you're playing now. We are playing terrific basketball right now."
This article was written by Mike Leland, a freelancer reporter who works with FrontRowPreps.com.