Cougars Clutch in Comeback

Weston Ranch High School was on the verge of elimination last night as they entered the fourth quarter against Piedmont High School. Trailing 47-39, and struggling to find an offensive spark, the Cougars were in a precarious situation. They had two ways to deal with it: First, they could have played the final 8 minutes and watch their opponent’s lead increase. The Cougars were in a similar situation like this in their last game, a loss to Capital Christian where they were down by eight points heading to the fourth quarter, eventually losing 77-59 after a deflating CC run took the energy away from any hope of a Cougar comeback. The second way they could deal with the deficit is to lift each other up, band together, and play with the heart and soul of a champion. Last night, the Cougars chose the second method and wore down the Highlanders in the fourth quarter, tied the game with eight seconds left, and won in overtime by a final of 79-74.

In a crazy 4th quarter, the Cougars found themselves down by as many as 11 points, most of which came via a 5-0 run by the Highlanders to begin the 4th. The Cougars, down 52-39, were put into the position of now or never if they wanted their season to continue to the second round. But, fighting through the adversity, Weston Ranch began to show their heart. Led by a three-pronged attack of junior Donjae Lindsey and seniors Jordahn Johson and Gavin Wilburn, the Cougars fought back. Chipping away at the lead slowly, Weston Ranch found themselves down by 4 with 2:01 left in the fourth. Piedmont, who came into the game as the #13 seed, saw their comfortable lead, built the entire game by playing patient and sometimes flawless offense, slowly slipping away. With 1:20 remaining, the Cougars were down by 3 points and had Piedmont in a panic. After both teams exchanged free throws, the Cougars who were still down by 3,  corralled a missed Piedmont free throw with 15 seconds left, and gave the ball to Wilburn for the last opportunity. Wilburn drove the lane, made a miraculous shot going to his left, and drew the foul, setting up the most significant free throw the Cougars had to attempt all season. Make it, and it’s tied. Miss it, and the season is over. Not only did Wilburn have to make a pressure-filled basket to tie the game, but he also had to wait 3 minutes for a scoring issue to resolve itself between the officials, coaches, and scorekeepers of both schools. After all that, Wilburn swished the free throw, and Piedmont called timeout with 8 seconds left and had the ball coming in bounds.

Flashback to February 7 when the Cougars faced Central Catholic, and they led the Raiders 71-69 only to have their hearts broken by a last-second miracle 3-pointer at the buzzer, and one could say the atmosphere in Cougar Gymnasium was tense. Would the Cougars learn from this or be the victims of another miracle? Learners, yes, and victims, no. Although Piedmont did get a shot off from close range, it missed, and the game went into overtime.

Donjae Lindsey scored the first Cougar basket as the OT commenced, and it was the first time the Cougars led the entire evening. After back and forth baskets, the Cougars grabbed a five-point lead, again led by Lindsey, Johnson, and Wilburn, and held on to win. After months and months of practice, tough early games, missing a chance to win the VOL, and last week’s deflating loss in the Sac-Joaquin Section, the Cougars had reason to celebrate.

Lindsey led all scorers with 29. Johnson had another double-double with 23 points and 20 rebounds, and Wilburn added 21. Add that up, and three Cougars scored 73 of the 79 total points. Junior Mi’Son Coilton had three first first-quarter points, and freshman Kodey Weary had a 2nd quarter three-pointer. In a night when points were hard to come by in the first half (the Cougars had 24), the big three exploded for 55 2nd half points, and all Piedmont could do was watch the hearts of the Cougars carry them to a win.

Weston Ranch will play Oakland Tech Thursday night at Weston Ranch. Game time is 7 pm.