GALT — Same round but better outcome this time for the Liberty Ranch High boys basketball team.
Hosting Bear River in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV quarterfinal game at The Hawks Nest on Friday, top-seed Liberty Ranch busted free from a halftime tie. That led to Liberty Ranch posting an 82-64 win over No. 8 Bear River, out of Lake of the Pines in Nevada County.
Now Liberty Ranch (28-2), which won its fourth consecutive Sierra Valley Conference title earlier this month, advances into the semifinals. Next Wednesday, the Hawks will have a rematch against No. 4 Ripon (19-11), which knocked off No. 5 Mountain House 79-58. In a non-league game at the Indians’ gym on Dec. 4, 2018, Liberty Ranch posted a 62-60 victory. Ripon captured the Trans-Valley League title.
At this time last winter, Calaveras defeated Liberty Ranch 73-62 that was also a quarterfinal game. Liberty Ranch was the No. 2 seed.
“That was another thing we talked about tonight before the game about getting redemption in the second round, regardless of whom the opponent is,” said Liberty Ranch coach Josh Williams. “We didn’t want the same thing to happen.”
Added Hawk guard Jalen Patterson, who had a game-high 31 points, “We just wanted to bounce back.”
The Hawks and Bruins were tied 38-38 at halftime. Just 18 seconds into the third quarter, Hawk guard Josh Seiler put in an easy basket near the baseline for a 40-38 lead. After a Bear River missed offensive opportunity that led to Liberty Ranch guard Jaime Gonzalez with the rebound, the score increased to 42-38 on a putback shot by Patterson.
“We just came out fast-paced,” Patterson said. “That’s what we do, run all game.”
Bear River guard Breken Vasquez canned a 3-pointer that cut into the Hawks’ lead to 42-41. Then Liberty Ranch, thanks to its 11 rebounds in the quarter, jumped out to an 11-0 run for a 53-41 score with 3:48 left in the quarter. The Hawks had 25 boards in the game.
Getting the basketball off the glass for the Hawks were Gonzalez, Seiler, Patterson and sophomore guard Branson McLelland, who was moved up from the school’s junior varsity team for the playoffs. Patterson scored 13 of his game-high points in the third quarter; all but one shot from the field. Making a free throw was the other.
Liberty Ranch led 60-50 entering the fourth quarter. But Bear River tried to stay within reach. That included Bruin forward Adam Malik making two free throws after Hawk guard Isaac Padilla (17 points) made a bucket to make it 62-52.
However, the Hawks outscored the Bruins 12-8 during a three-minute stretch in the middle of the quarter. Hawk forward Jayden Baroni knocked down a 3-pointer, along with Padilla, which led the way. Under three minutes left in the game, Liberty Ranch held a comfortable 78-60 lead.
In the first half, Liberty Ranch missed several easy lay-ups. Bear River was quick to getting the basketball off the boards that led to six 3-pointers. That helped the Bruins claw their way back into the game in which Liberty Ranch only had single-digit leads.
“They made a lot of shots,” Williams said. “We were terrible on the rebounds. We were a step slow and lethargic. We didn’t have enough energy. It’s one of those things where this team is because we are so talented that, I think, at times that we can just take care of business walking around.”
Behind Patterson and Padilla in scoring for the Hawks were Baroni with 15 points, McLelland and Seiler five each and Gonzalez four.
Vasquez led the Bruins in scoring with 24 points. Malik followed with 16 points and point guard Caleb Lowry 10.
Contact Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.