GALT — On a night where the Liberty Ranch High boys basketball team clinched another Sierra Valley Conference title, one player celebrated a personal accomplishment.
Hosting Union Mine at The Hawks Nest on Friday, Liberty Ranch used a critical 3-pointer toward the end of the third quarter. That led to Liberty Ranch (9-0 in the SVC, 26-1) posting an 81-75 win over Union Mine (6-3 in the SVC, 16-11), which enters and left the game in second place. The win gives the Hawks their fourth consecutive conference title.
The heated contest was tied 56-56 until 14 seconds left in the third quarter. That’s when Liberty Ranch guard Isaac Padilla (23 points) canned a 3-pointer in front of Liberty Ranch’s student section for a 59-56 score.
“I felt like I had to take charge,” Padilla said.
Liberty Ranch started the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run that had guard Jalen Patterson (game-high 28 points) hit a bank shot to ignite the run. Padilla and guard Jaime Gonzalez (20 points) also canned shots during that stretch.
“We played very strong,” said Liberty Ranch coach Josh Williams. “We had our backs up against the wall in the third quarter. I’m very proud of my guys.”
But Union Mine, which erased a Liberty Ranch 28-18 lead in the second quarter that had the Hawks leading 43-36 at halftime, battled in the final eight minutes of the game. The Diamondbacks relied on their half-court defense that pressured the Hawks into turnovers and the scoring of guard Dalton Heikes, one of four D’backs who scored in double figures with 19 points. Heikes scored seven of those points in the quarter.
“They did a good job in executing,” said Padilla of Union Mine.
Liberty Ranch, which saw the D’backs cut into the lead again to 75-72 with 1:15 left in the game, continued to get a solid effort from the 6-foot-4 Padilla down the stretch. He had a put back shot and made two free throws in the time left in the game to seal the victory and crown for the Hawks.
Patterson, a three-year starter in the Hawks’ backcourt, is now the Liberty Ranch’s all-time leading scorer with 1,885 points. DeAndre Stallings had the previous record earlier this decade at 1,882. Gonzalez has 1,100.
Behind the trio of Hawk scorers was guard Gabriel Nino, who finished with eight points.
Union Mine guard Sean Akers had 21 points. Following Heikes was Keoni Rivera 13 and Anthony Vaughn 12.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.