SACRAMENTO — One minute and three seconds.
That’s how much time was left with a tie score in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV boys basketball title game at the Golden 1 Center on Friday.
Top-seeded Liberty Ranch got clutch shots from Jalen Patterson, Jayden Baroni and Isaac Padilla down the stretch to force the tie, but Sonora guard Austin Patterson answered with the biggest shot of all, a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to lift No. 2 Sonora to 73-70 win over the Hawks in a thrilling finish.
This is the third time this decade that Liberty Ranch, Galt’s second high school, has been denied the blue banner; Capital Christian of Sacramento beat the Hawks 72-57 in the 2015 title contest and Summerville posted a 63-52 win in 2013.
“We played hard,” said Liberty Ranch coach Josh Williams. “Sonora played hard also. Some of the breaks didn’t go our way.”
Both Liberty Ranch (29-3) and Sonora advance to the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal playoffs. The top four teams in both D-IV boys and girls basketball earn an automatic berth. The CIF is expected to release those brackets on its website — cifstate.org — on Sunday.
Jalen Patterson, a junior guard, kicked out the basketball to Hawk forward Jayden Baroni, who nailed a 3-pointer that deadlocked the game at 68-68 with 1:03 on the clock.
After both teams traded offensive possessions, Austin Patterson (game-high 29 points) canned a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats the lead for good at 71-68. That was one of eight — out of 18 attempts — the Wildcats made in the game. Liberty Ranch made 7 of 18 attempts.
“When I released it, I knew it was cash,” Patterson said inside the Sacramento Kings’ media room.
Sonora coach Lloyd Longeway added, “He shot it with so much confidence. That’s kind of how he plays. He’s aggressive, he believes in himself.”
But the Hawks continued to battle. Padilla was fouled and went to the free-throw line, where he calmly sank both shots to trim the Wildcats’ lead to 71-70.
Sonora (27-4) increased its lead to 73-70 with 21.5 seconds on the clock, with guard Alvin Calindas converting on two free throws.
“At the end of the day, they made more plays than we did,” Williams said. “A lot of the 50/50 balls went their way in the first half. I felt like we did a better job in the second half.”
Both teams traded possessions in the final seconds of the contest. Liberty Ranch’s last hope came with under 5 seconds remaining, when a 3-pointer was attempted but missed. The teams scrambled for the loose ball with 0.4 seconds. The three game officials ruled the ball in favor or Sonora, which ran out the clock to win its first section crown in more than 20 years.
Liberty Ranch and Sonora were tied at 57-57 entering the fourth quarter. The Hawks and Wildcats traded baskets that led to another tie at 61-61 halfway through the quarter.
“We were able to come back with some energy, get some momentum,” Longeway said.
Liberty Ranch outrebounded Sonora 37-34, but the Wildcats did limit the Hawks’ second-chance opportunities.
“That was key No. 1 for us; the four keys to victory,” Williams said. “We know that rebounds and free throws and layups win championships.”
Sonora held a 43-37 advantage at halftime. The Wildcats maintained their advantage throughout the third quarter until Padilla (12 points) hit a 3-pointer with under five seconds left that gave the Hawks a short-lived 57-55 lead.
The Wildcats quickly responded on offense with a bucket that tied the game at 57-all.
Jalen Patterson was the Hawks’ leading scorer with 16 points. Jaime Gonzalez finished with 14 and Padilla had 12 points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots. Sophomore guard Josh Seiler had eight points.
Behind Patterson, O’Neal and Hawkins each had nine points for the Wildcats.
Now Williams and the Hawks are looking for a fresh start in the NorCal playoffs. Last winter, Liberty Ranch reached the NorCal D-IV semifinals.
“We have a new life moving into NorCals,” Williams said.
“We talk about winning league every year, winning the section. We feel we’re good enough to compete. That will be our new conversation. We’ll take what we get.”
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.