And just like that, the seams attaching Valley Oak League jerseys with their success over Oakdale High’s varsity boys basketball team have burst amidst the flexing of Mustang muscles.
Oakdale stunned host East Union with a breakaway layup in the last second to edge the Lancers 50-48 on Jan. 23. Two days later, the hulking lineup of Sonora was cut down to size in a first-half rally as Oakdale toppled the once-playoff hopefuls 45-39.
Considering Oakdale seriously tested unbeaten league favorite, Sierra, on Jan. 19, it’s safe to say the rest of the conference isn’t looking forward to facing resurgent Oakdale during the final five meetings of the season.
An Oakdale team that started well behind other conference programs after football extended deep into the basketball preseason is finally playing their best basketball of the year.
“I’m proud and even happier for the kids because we got such a late start and they need to understand that if they stay patient and keep with it, they can see it all pay off,” Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields said. “What you put in is what you get out and the kids are seeing a benefit of that now.”
Oakdale trailed East Union by nine points in the fourth quarter, but exploded late and tied the game with a trey from Spencer Thomas that was well beyond the NBA three-point mark with 15 seconds to play.
East Union ran a pick-and-roll on the ensuing inbound, but found the play suddenly muffed when Oakdale’s Josh Watts scrambled to cover the would-be scorer. The ball found itself in the possession of DeWayne Finney with five seconds to play. Finney outraced the clock and East Union defenders for a game-winning layup with .5 seconds remaining.
The momentum carried into Oakdale’s contest with host Sonora, who floundered in Oakdale’s wake amidst a 12-2 Oakdale run in the first period and a 14-8 overall advantage in the second quarter.
“It was tough for Sonora to get the ball in the post early in the game, and we were very aggressive defensively to limit their touches,” Fields said. “We made them shoot over the top of us and they were not knocking down shots in the first half.”
The striking 26-10 lead at halftime was challenged during Sonora’s 29-19 rally over the final two periods, but Oakdale hung on to take the win.
“We knew they would come in and grind out stuff in the second half and we would have to weather the storm,” Fields said. “That’s kind of what happened. They pounded the ball inside and got a few more touches, but we limited them.”
Finney scored 18 points against both East Union and Sonora while Austin Archuletta netted 20 points against the Wildcats.
Oakdale (8-11 overall, 2-7 VOL) will be seriously tested today, Jan. 30 at Weston Ranch. The Cougars are 13-7 overall and 8-1 in conference play after a 73-68 loss to Sierra on Jan. 25.