To do so, he first needed the Tigers to buy into a different philosophy and to approach their final four league games as if they were the start of a fresh new season.
In front of a raucous crowd Monday in Modesto, the Tigers defeated Central Catholic, 55-41, for their second consecutive victory.
It appears that winning is believing.
“We’re trying to be a new team,” McCleery said. “We’ve had this ‘youthful, inexperienced’ tag on us for a while, and rightfully so.
“But we’re not young anymore. We’re not inexperienced anymore. That team is gone. We’re just trying to play these final games with that new attitude.”
The win gives Patterson (13-11 overall, 9-3 WAC) a sweep of the season series between the teams. More importantly, it also keeps the Tigers’ postseason hopes alive.
Entering Monday’s game, Patterson was ranked No. 17 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings. Only the top 16 teams earn playoff bids.
The Tigers dominated from the start. They used accurate shooting and stingy defense to build an 11-point lead in the first quarter before the Raiders could get anything going.
Central Catholic (8-16, 4-8) had the fight. They had some plays. But in the end, they didn’t have the bodies to keep up with the Tigers.
“We had a great start to the game,” McCleery said. “It makes it a lot of fun when we can play that way.”
Patterson’s Cassie Coble led the way with 21 points. Teammates Rebecca Hinojos and Amber Bond added 11 points and eight points, respectively.
The Tigers pulled away from the Raiders in the second quarter. Patterson pushed its lead out to as many as 16 points, 28-12, running and gunning Central Catholic into submission.
Bond picked the pocket of Raiders point guard Allison Lenzora and led a fastbreak the other way. She hit Coble running down the center of the floor, and Coble finished the break with a sweeping layup. It capped a 13-6 run to end the quarter, giving the Tigers a comfortable 30-16 halftime lead.
“We’re pressing more; we’re running more; we’re passing more,” McCleery said. “When girls get tired, we’re also going to run more substitutions in there.”
Coble drew a foul on a drive to the basket, then hit Hinojos inside for a layup, keeping momentum in Patterson’s favor to open the second half.
Coble then used her penetration ability to get to her sweet spots.
She stopped on a dime and pulled up for an easy 3-pointer from the right side of the free-throw line. After Hinojos grabbed an offensive rebound, Coble nailed another mid-range pull-up from the same area on the opposite side. The Tigers led 42-29 heading into the fourth quarter.
After a pair of free throws by Bond, the Tigers hoisted another long-range jumper. This time, Audriana Ruiz’s shot came after a series of passes and a pump fake that got her a better look. She nailed it with 2 minutes remaining, putting the Tigers up 50-39.
Patterson sealed the win with ball movement down the stretch, exhausting the fourth-quarter clock.
“We’ve still got a few more games to get better and to finish the season strong,” McCleery said.
The JV Tigers fell to Central Catholic, 53-49.
Patterson led 35-30 after three quarters, but the Raiders outscored the Tigers 23-14 in the fourth quarter to steal the win.
Patterson’s Sierra Valentine scored 13 of her game-high 16 points in the first half. Teammate Dani Hansen added six points, 13 blocks and 10 rebounds.