After a three-year hiatus, the Tigers punched their ticket Friday, Feb. 17, by way of a 63-61 come-from-behind victory over Central Catholic High in the final game of the Western Athletic Conference season.
Patterson managed to upend the first-place Raiders (22-5 overall, 10-2 WAC) while earning a bit of revenge from a hard-fought 56-48 defeat to Central Catholic at home Jan. 25.
In that contest, Patterson trailed the Raiders by 21 points with only eight minutes to play. Junior John Minton’s third 3-pointer of the game made it a three-point affair with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining, but time eventually ran out on the Tigers’ rally.
This time, Patterson (19-7, 8-4) managed to storm back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, spoiling the Raiders’ Senior Night.
“It sounds cliché, but this team never gives up, never stops believing,” Patterson coach Agustin Arreola said. “I couldn’t ask for a better end to the WAC season. Tonight was about getting to the playoffs for our seniors.”
It was the Tigers’ third-straight win, but more importantly, it secured a playoff berth. Entering last week’s game, Patterson was ranked No. 16 in the Division III power ratings, with the top 16 teams advancing to the postseason.
The No. 14-seed Tigers travel Wednesday, Feb. 22, to face No. 3 Center High of Antelope (19-7, 7-3 Pioneer Valley League) in the first round of the Division III playoffs.
Patterson outscored Central Catholic 17-5 in the fourth quarter, taking a 62-61 lead with 33 seconds left, after junior Skylar Job connected on a pair of free throws. Teammate senior Zack Dinu then made the front end of a one-and-one, upping the lead to two points with 18 seconds left.
The Raiders had one last chance to tie or take the lead, but Central Catholic guard Nate Loya couldn’t get off a desperation heave in time.
Seconds after the buzzer sounded, Patterson players and fans stormed the court.
“We controlled our own destiny tonight, and we grabbed it,” Arreola said.
Patterson’s Keegan Sanchez and Cariun Williams did their best to prove themselves as one of the WAC’s top one-two punches. They combined to score 43 of their team’s 63 points against Central Catholic.
“We felt that we had an advantage at the guard position,” Arreola said. “Keegan and Cariun did a great job tonight of putting it all together and stepping up for us on offense.”
Sanchez led the Tigers with 23 points, including six 3-point shots, adding three rebounds and two steals. The junior guard tallied 11 of the first 13 points for Patterson, and hit three 3-pointers in both the first and third quarters.
“We came out, we attacked,” Sanchez said. “We were ready for Central Catholic tonight.”
Williams, meanwhile, finished with 21 points, including Patterson’s final nine of the first quarter. The sophomore added four rebounds and two steals.
“Tonight, we showed that this team can take the program to another level,” Williams said. “For us, losing this game was never an option.”
Central Catholic, usually a strong free-throw shooting team, made just 9-of-24 from the foul line.
Patterson, meanwhile, won the battle on the boards, outrebounding a taller Central Catholic squad 33-27.
Job gave the Tigers nine points and nine rebounds. Teammate senior Brian Lemmon added four points and six rebounds, and senior Adan Cortez finished with four points, three boards and two steals.
“We believe we can beat any team out there,” Sanchez said.
The Tigers attacked the home team on both ends of the floor and avenged their Jan. 25 overtime loss, beating Central Catholic, 77-58, splitting league championship honors with the Raiders.
“We had to step up. We had to do what we had to do,” Patterson’s Jordan Levu said.
Patterson (11-1 WAC) knocked down 11 3-pointers, including six in the first quarter.
Jordan Dinu led the deep attack with four 3-pointers and 16 points. Levu scored 25 points, including three 3-pointers, to go with 21 rebounds and six assists, and Justin Rodriguez had two 3-pointers and 18 points.
Patterson had plenty of trouble with Central Catholic late last month.
The Tigers experienced no such problems in last week’s rematch.
Patterson’s pressure defense was at its suffocating best in the second half, and the Raiders never had room to breathe, trailing 43-24 after halftime.
“We thought positive the whole way,” Levu said. “We knew we had to keep our foot on the pedal.”
The Tigers also got nine points from Brandon Williams and six from Gurkirt Heerey.
Despite a 44-40 road loss to the Central Catholic Raiders, the freshman Tigers did not return from the WAC closer a beaten team.
After an 11-1 league campaign, Patterson finished the season as conference champions.
Demarrio Hammands scored a game-high 20 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists, while Kevin Phelps added 14 points and 15 rebounds for Patterson.