MANTECA Sonora High School's late-season slump continued last night with a 56-44 boys' basketball loss to Sierra.
The Wildcats, once 4-0 in the Valley Oak League, have lost four of their last five games to fall out of contention for a second straight title and to endanger their streak of 18 straight playoff appearances. Sonora (11-11, 5-4 VOL) was 13th in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings going into the Sierra game, needing to stay in the top 16 to qualify.
"I don't think there's even any urgency (among the Wildcats) to make the playoffs," Sonora coach Rick Francis said. "It's a hard thing to figure out."
The Wildcats' troubles began three weeks ago, which they blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter and lost 53-49 at home to archrival Oakdale. Sonora would have been 5-0 in league with a victory that night, but since then has beaten only last-place Buhach Colony of Atwater (1-21, 0-10).
"The kids were saying on the way home last night that they've never recovered from those last three minutes against Oakdale," Francis said.
Sierra (11-13, 4-6) wasn't about to feel sorry for the Wildcats, having lost a 50-49 heartbreaker to them Jan. 22 in Sonora. The Timberwolves hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter to take a 16-11 lead and were never headed.
Quick little guard Daniel Pastran scored 18 points and fellow guard Richard Mitchell 14. The two combined to hit all seven of the Timberwolves' 3-pointers Pastran four and Mitchell three.
Uncharacteristically, Sonora had only one trey (by Zach Dyer).
Pastran protected Sierra's lead in the fourth quarter by penetrating, drawing fouls and shooting 5-for-6 from the free-throw line. As a team, Sierra as 10-for-12 from the line in the final period.
"We just got outplayed," Francis said.
Center Tom McDonnell led Sonora with 17 points. Dyer was next with seven.