Team of the Week: CC Raiders shaped early VOL race with win over Cougars

Ron Agostini

MODESTO – The Central Catholic High Raiders understood what it meant when their students stormed the court last week.

The Raiders had just beaten Weston Ranch, the defending Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion, their nemesis from a season ago. In one memorable night at the Gallo Health and Fitness Center, Central Catholic announced its arrival in the VOL race.

Further: When you vanquish a team that frustrated you three times during the previous season – the last one in a lopsided section final – you’ve earned the celebration.

“The kids were so excited, as they should be. I let them live it up,” Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson said as he recalled his team’s 62-61 victory. “I just reminded them…that all we did is put us in charge of driving the truck. It’s your job to finish the haul.”

Central Catholic (13-6, 5-0) is still barreling down the interstate. There is a long way to go, of course, but the Raiders have made a strong first impression. It’s why they’re’s Yogurt Mill Team of The Week.

CC's momentum continued with its 61-42 victory Wednesday night at Oakdale. The Raiders are rolling, and knocking off Weston Ranch and its talented stars Gavin Wilburn, Donjae' Lindsey and Mison Coilton only increased Central Catholic's confidence.

“It felt good beating them,” senior guard Dayton Magana said.“I think we’re off to a good start.”

Magana, a four-year varsity player, has blossomed into a bona fide star as a senior. He’s averaging 18.8 points per game, five points better than his junior season, and has drained 59 of 175 3-pointers (34 percent). Not surprisingly, he strafed Weston Ranch for 20 points.

Wilson promoted Magana midway through his freshman year and, since, CC has done a lot of winning. The Raiders went undefeated in the VOL when Magana was a sophomore. As a freshman, he contributed to a CC team that claimed the section D-IV title and reached the regional semifinals.

Magana’s hard-working off-season keynoted his productive senior season. Adjusting his perimeter shot helped.

“He has calmed his play down where he doesn’t force quite as much out of control,” Wilson praised. “He played pretty much every minute last year. This year with the arrival of Arvind (Sandhu) and (Matt) Govea’s coming on quite a bit, he (Magana) feels relieved a little bit and relaxed.”
“It’s gone by faster than I thought,” Magana said.

The support around Magana has been a boon. Nic Sani, a 6-foot-6 245-pound senior post, did not play as a junior due to a football injury.  Even after a strenuous football campaign, he’s averaged 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds and – as a bonus – has hit nearly 50 percent of his triples.

“I feel much better playing basketball after missing last season,” said Sani, a varsity player as a sophomore. “I didn’t like being out last year. (he underwent shoulder surgery).”

Then there’s Sandhu, 6-foot junior guard (14.6 ppg) who became eligible this month after his transfer from Modesto High. Sandhu, as a freshman, torched the Central Catholic JVs for 40 points.

“Arvind just fell into our lap. A wonderful gift,” Wilson said.

 Sandhu and Magana took turns guarding Kimball’s 6-5 John Harris during last week’s 75-58 victory. Clearly, Central Catholic has taken advantage of more weapons around Magana. The improved Govea has stepped into the lineup this season, and senior football star Dalton Durossette (8.6 ppg, 6.9 rebounds) brings athleticism and competitive fight.

Late baskets by Magana and Durossette, coupled with a turnover in the final eight seconds, amounted to an escape hatch as the Raiders held on for a 61-57 win at East Union.

Wilson feels his team is on-course – for now.

“My worry is that they make this (the victory over Weston Ranch) the highlight of their year when there’s so much more to go,” he said. “All I want for the team is to never quit, never stop playing and work hard.”