By KEVIN SAULS
It wasn't how many points senior guard Aaron Jolley scored, it was when he scored them that mattered.
Jolley swished a jump shot from the middle of the key with seven seconds remaining to give Sonora High School a thrilling 50-49 Valley Oak League boys' basketball victory Wednesday night over Sierra of Manteca at Bud Castle Gym.
The defending-champion Wildcats (10-7, 4-0 VOL) moved into a first-place tie with idle East Union of Manteca (12-5, 4-0).
A couple of minutes before his game-winner, Jolley sank a 3-pointer from the left wing to give Sonora a 48-47 lead, with 1:55 to play, when not much was going right for the Wildcats. That shot, plus his later heroics, accounted for all of Jolley's five points.
The sequence leading up to the winning play was wild. After Chris Bradley gave Sierra (8-11, 1-4) a 49-48 lead with two free throws at 1:36:
Sonora missed two layups and had a shot blocked by Bradley at about the one-minute mark.
Sierra guard Daniel Pastran (game-high 22 points) was pestered by Sonora defender Rob Hoyt into a five-second call, giving Sonora the ball with 36 seconds left.
Sonora's Zach Dyer was called out of bounds after receiving a return pass on an inbounds play with only 12 seconds on the clock.
Sierra tried twice to get the ball in play from there, but first had to call its final timeout, and then gave possession back to Sonora when Joseph Williams heaved a long pass out of bounds at the other end.
Sonora took a timeout at that point, with the crowd going crazy and the band blaring, to set up its final play. From the spot of the ill-fated Williams pass, Dyer inbounded to fellow guard Travis Hendrix beyond the top of the key. Hendrix made a penetrating move and then delivered a perfect bounce pass to Jolley slashing across the key from right to left.
Jolley rose, hung in the air for a split second, hit nothing but net, and sent the crowd into another frenzy.
Sierra, out of timeouts, frantically tried to get a final shot, but Williams was called for traveling about 30 feet from the basket as time expired.
It was a gutty victory for Sonora, which trailed by four points with less than three minutes left after blowing an early 12-point lead.