Sonora guard Danny Matranga is normally not the guy who straps the team on his back while he scores points in bunches. But the senior co-captain saw opportunity and stepped up at the perfect time.
Matranga scored seven of Sonora's final 12 points to help lead the Wildcats to a 51-43 hoops victory over the Calaveras Redskins Tuesday night at Bud Castle Gym.
With 2:40 left in the game and the score tied at 39, Matranga canned a 3-pointer to put the Cats in front for good, 42-39.
The next time down the floor, the 5-8 Matranga drove and swished a 6-foot floater just over the outstretched arm of Calaveras big man Kyle Gouveia (6-6) to make the score 44-41. With 58 seconds left, Matranga helped seal the deal by penetrating the lane for a layup to give the Cats a commanding 48-41 lead.
"To be honest, I looked into the stands, I saw my dad and he said, 'Go get 'em,' " said Matranga. "I don't really shoot that much. But I've earned my fair share of shots so I started taking them and they started falling. We needed somebody else to step up and close out games besides Ben (Bates) and Nick (Mays) and I wanted to help and do my part. I'm glad the shots fell. I couldn't have done it if my team didn't have good spacing. Everybody was giving me space and helping me to penetrate."
Matranga's points down the stretch helped offset a strong performance from Redskin senior Wyatt Madrid who scored a game-high 21 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter.
Down 34-28 to start the fourth quarter, Madrid put the Redskins on his back. And before you could say "Wyatt Madrid," he scored six points to tie the game and force Sonora head coach Rick Francis to call timeout.
Later, with the game tied at 37, Madrid drove strong to the hole and delicately laid the rock off the glass for a 39-37 Redskin lead. That's the last lead the Skins would enjoy.
"I was very impressed with their No. 15," said Francis. "When I scouted them over at the Bret Harte Tournament, I told my guys, 'That 15, he's their best ball player.' He can take it to the hole and he's got the old-school jump shot to where he can come off the screen and bury it."
"I know he had 21 points, but I was more pleased with his defense," said Redskin head coach Kraig Clifton. "He played very well, had lots of energy on both sides of the ball and did a lot for us tonight. He has that capability and hopefully he continues."
The Redskins started hot in the first period, jumping out to a 11-3 lead behind a pair of 3s from Madrid and Zack Johnson.
But that's when Sonora's Derek Smith came off the bench and sparked the Wildcats with shots from long range.
Smith canned consecutive treys to make it 11-9 and then added another with 3 seconds left to give the Cats a 14-12 lead after the first period.
"I was trying my best," said Smith. "We hadn't won in a couple of games and we were looking for the best and trying to get a win."
"Derek was huge for us early and Danny in the fourth quarter, those seven points were big too," said Bates, the Sonora standout who was the focus of the Redskins' defensive effort. He still had a solid all-around game with seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
"I already knew Bates was a complete player," said Clifton. "He's tough to guard. When you can shoot the 3 and play in the post with your back to the basket, that's pretty phenomenal. And that became a big mismatch for us because we couldn't put our big on him because he can't guard him on the perimeter. And we were undersized in the post. He causes lots of problems."
Calaveras battled back in the second quarter and went to halftime leading 23-21.
The Wildcats took their first second-half lead when Smith hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game. With time running down on the shot clock, Smith saved the possession by launching a 30-footer which grazed the rim and sliced through the net. Smith finished with a team-high 14 points.
For Sonora (4-6), Jeff Storey scored nine points, including 5 for 6 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, Josh Thacker scored six points, Kyle Wolfe hit a 3-pointer, Mays, battling early foul trouble, scored three points and grabbed five boards and Cody Hansten added two points.
"When you win, that's nice," said a smiling Francis. "Against a good, fundamental basketball team, I thought we were a little smarter tonight than we have been. We still made some little mistakes but ...
"We put in a new offense for this game and we were clicking with that to begin with and then we went back to our old ways for a bit. But I'm glad. I think the turnovers were down compared to the last couple of games and that's a big plus for us. They put a little pressure on us and we handled it OK. And then we hit our free throws down the stretch. That was big too."
"It was a well-fought defensive game," said Clifton. "I thought both teams played good defense. I think a lot of times it boils down to free throws and they hit theirs and got timely shots to fall down the stretch. When it comes down to it, you just gotta put the ball in the hole. And we're struggling offensively."
Sonora shot 15 for 20 from the charity stripe while the Redskins went 12 for 24.
For Calaveras (4-5), Mike Seawell scored 10 points, Gouveia added five points, Brian Golston four and Johnson three.
The Wildcats will have a few days off before playing Merced on Dec. 27 in the first round of the Robert & Mary Fuchs Memorial Holiday Classic at Columbia College's Oak Pavilion.
The Redskins next will compete in the Union Mine Challenge on Friday and Saturday.
"I think we did good tonight and had a lot less turnovers -our last game wasn't so good," said Smith. "We did a lot better this time and we all came together as a a team. This was a huge win. We were all screaming afterward in the locker room. It was fun. "But we've gotta get better."