His expression said it all, defeat and dejection, but Josh Williams knows there will be a tomorrow.
His team will rise again.
It’s high school basketball, and losing a crusher Friday afternoon at Golden 1 Center will continue to sting, certainly, but it does not have to define a season that still has a lot of promise and legs left to it.
Second-seeded Sonora and its star Patterson player outlasted top-seeded Liberty Ranch and its dazzling Patterson 73-70 for Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV honors.
Austin Patterson scored 28 points for Sonora (27-4), including a 3-pointer for a 71-68 lead with 33 seconds remaining, a lead the Wildcats would not surrender.
Liberty Ranch (29-3) was led by its own junior guard, Jalen Patterson, who had 19 points, and then agonized later that he could not do more.
It’s the first section crown in this sport for Sonora since 1992, eons ago, but it’s the second section final setback for Liberty Ranch and its passionate coach since 2015.
All section semifinalists and finalists advance to the CIF Northern California playoffs next week. A year ago, Liberty Ranch lost in a section semifinal, regrouped and won two NorCal playoff games to turn a downer into an upper.
“We do have new life,” Williams said. “Our goal every year is to win a league championship, the section, to be one of the best in the state.”
Williams was hurting because he’s coaching a powerhouse program in his hometown of Galt, and 29-2 teams expect to win every last game. But Williams especially feels for his players. They don’t get this sort of opportunity each season. Coaches last longer than players.
“We put a lot into this, 365 days a year,” Williams said of coaching. “I spend a lot of time away from family, and so do the players, so when you fall short, it hurts.”
Darius O’Neal had 15 points and Trey Hawkins 14 for Sonora. Liberty Ranch’s starting lineup each hit for double figures in scoring with Jaime Gonzalez going for 16, Isaac Padilla 12, Jayden Baroni 11 and Josh Seiler 10.
The Liberty Ranch student body section was in full force, and it expects to be for the NorCals as well.
Liberty Ranch with its record should be a high-enough seed to host as many as two playoff games, if it wins.
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