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Cats lose to Oakdale amid controversy

OAKDALE — Two controversial baskets, one that was awarded and one that was waved off, were crucial in Friday night's renewal of the Sonora-Oakdale high school boys' basketball rivalry — won 42-39 by Oakdale in the regular-season finale.

Oakdale's Ryan Stevenson scored on a follow-up shot at the end of the first half to give the Mustangs a 25-24 lead. Sonora coach Rick Francis said he thought the shot was released after the halftime buzzer had sounded, and therefore should not have counted.

"There was a big controversy," he said.

Not as big as the one at the end of the game, when Sonora center Tom McDonnell swished a 3-pointer to apparently tie the contest and send it into overtime. This time, the officials went the other way and ruled that the buzzer had indeed sounded before the shot was taken.

Francis remains unconvinced.

"I thought it was good, and even one of (Oakdale's) coaches told me it was good," Francis said.

So was written another bitter chapter in a difficult season for Sonora, which began the year looking for a second straight Valley Oak League championship but wound up finishing fourth and barely making the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs as the 16th and final seed (see separate story).

McDonnell scored 16 points and guard Travis Hendrix 10 for the Wildcats (12-13, 6-6 VOL), while the 1-2 punch of guards Ryan Stevenson and Josh Kitchen scored 15 and 14, respectively, for second-place Oakdale (20-6, 10-2). Kitchen shot 0-for-9 from 3-point range against the defense-by-committee of Rob Smittle, Cody Hall, and Robert Johnson.

Guard James Reese helped the Oakdale cause with a more-than-usual total of nine points, including a big trey in the third quarter.

"Once again, though, little things hurt us — like not screening off on the boards and defensive breakdowns," Francis said. "But on a positive note, our kids played hard. They came to play, and we had lacked that for a while."

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