The Sonora Wildcats beat Calaveras 52-38 Tuesday night in Bud Castle Gym, a convincing victory that sends them to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV final at 4 p.m. Thursday in at Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento.
Calaveras took an early lead in the first period, 8-4 and 10-6, and the scrappy visitors from San Andreas used three-point shooting to keep the game close at times. Sonora, the #1 seed in Division IV, led 29-23 at halftime, and #5 seed Calaveras continued clawing back, making it 29-26 and then 34-31, both times closing the gap with clutch threes from distance.
Sonora beat Calaveras twice by more than 20 points — 74-50 and 67-44 — in January but Calaveras played stronger until mid-way through the third period. At that point the Sonora press and occasional fast breaks wore the visitors down, in spite of a vocal section of traveling supporters jammed into the east corner of the Wildcats gymnasium.
The final minutes against Calaveras were much less tense than Sonora’s last playoffs win Friday night, when the Wildcats drained key shots and late free throws to hold off tenacious #9 seed West Campus 65-60 in a thundering atmosphere.
“We relied on defense tonight,” Lloyd Longeway, the Wildcats head coach, shouted as people shook his hand and hugged him near center-court. “We knew Calaveras was going to be tough. They’re so well-coached and they play real hard. We did our best and I’m especially proud of all the seniors, Devon Dye, Austin Patterson, Jon Mayben, Darius O’Neal, Spencer Copello.”
Sophomore point guard Callahan Hanson and junior center Gabe Milbourn also contributed key baskets and got sparked fast breaks on loose balls and turnovers in the fourth period.
Sonora now has less than 48 hours to prepare for Liberty Ranch, the #3 seed in Division IV, who beat #2 seed Union Mine in a 62-61 nailbiter Tuesday night in El Dorado County. Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento is about 95 miles from Sonora High School.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.