Since beating Weston Ranch on Feb. 5, the varsity basketball boys have fallen on hard times, suffering back to back road losses to Kimball (71-49) and Lathrop (65-34). The boys looked to bounce back on Valentine’s Day, Friday night, when their rivals the Sonora Wildcats came to town for Oakdale’s Winter Homecoming.
In the final match up between Oakdale and Sonora as Valley Oak League rivals, as Sonora High School is relocating to the Mother Lode League next season, the near capacity crowd in the Mustangs gym was treated to a real nailbiter that saw Sonora leave the victor, 56-50.
The crowd was electric the entire night, even before tip off, as the Winter Homecoming royalty was crowned and a special celebration was held for the five seniors on the team for Senior Night.
The Mustangs started the game off hot as seniors Tyler Tietjen and Austin “Archie” Archuleta both drained deep three’s to give Oakdale an early 6-2 lead. With 2:42 remaining in the first quarter, Archuleta was fouled as he was lining up for another three, resulting in a trip to the free throw line where he made all three, giving Oakdale an 11-6 advantage. The Wildcats roared back and ended the quarter on a 9-0 run to give Sonora the 15-11 lead after one period was in the books.
Sonora continued to expand their lead to 21-11 as Oakdale went on a scoring drought that lasted more than five minutes. The drought ended when Oakdale junior forward, Nick Mattos made a layup that was quickly followed by a jumper by Oakdale’s sophomore forward, Adam Olsen to bring Oakdale back within three 21-18 with 3:54 remaining in the first half. The crowd was reenergized and began a “Let’s go Oakdale” chant. Sonora, however, quickly silenced the crowd with another run, building their lead to 27-19. Oakdale refused to roll over, and junior guard Octavio Padilla knocked down a deep three with 38 seconds left in the half. The Mustangs also buckled down on defense and junior forward Shane Baxter made Sonora pay on the other end as he was fouled in the act of shooting a three of his own with .8 seconds left in the half. Baxter connected on two of the three attempts and the Wildcats clung to a 27-24 halftime lead.
Sonora came out swinging in the second half and built a 42-30 lead and ended the third quarter with a 44-34 lead.
The Mustangs made things interesting in the fourth as they opened up the quarter on a 6-1 run and closed the gap to 45-40 Sonora with four minutes to play. Sonora was up 47-42 until Padilla split a pair of free throws to make it a four point game with 2:50 remaining. After a Mustangs time out, Archuleta knocked down another deep three to bring the Mustangs within one 47-46 with 2:29 remaining and the crowd rose to its collective feet and the ear piercing “Let’s go Oakdale” chants returned. Padilla made a pair of free throws to keep Oakdale within one with just over a minute to play forcing Sonora to take a timeout. During the timeout, the Mustang faithful brought on the “Defense” chant but Sonora senior guard Will Collamer silenced them when he connected on his fourth three pointer of the night giving Sonora a five point lead with 46.8 remaining. The Mustangs went ice cold down the stretch and Sonora hung on for the road win.
“We will take this loss and learn from it, and use it to our advantage the next time,” Mustangs head coach Jeremy Fields said.
He also commented on the seniors playing their final home games for the Mustangs.
“Four of the five guys played all four years with the team,” he noted. “They never missed a beat. Kyle (Peterson) is a beast. Dominic (Fauria) and Tyler (Tietjen) are two great kids. They were never looking to put themselves ahead of the team, always looking to help out others. Nick (McElmurry) is a workhorse. He manages to play basketball, have a job, take on AP classes, and still manage a 4.0 GPA. What can I say about Archie. He is a great young man; he worked very hard all four years and improved with every passing minute.
“I’m very proud of these young men. It’s like watching your kids leave the nest.”