The Livingston boys basketball team, which had thrived on closing out fourth quarters after holding leads, did not know it was eight minutes away from experiencing one of its biggest collapses of the season.
The Tigers stormed back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit, spoiling the Wolves’ Senior Night by coming away with a stunning 86-79 victory in front of a capacity crowd.
Patterson’s Daniel Reza, who scored 13 points, helped take charge by nailing one of his three 3-pointers. But it was Nuckolls who capped off the late-game surge by making a pair of acrobatic layups in the final two minutes.
“Half of us (seniors) have never won in (Livingston),” Nuckolls said. “If they would have won, they would have been the Western Athletic Conference champions, and we couldn’t give that to them.
“Especially on their Senior Night.”
It was the Tigers’ second-straight win, but more importantly, it improved the team’s chances for a playoff berth. Entering Tuesday’s game, Patterson was ranked No. 11 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings. The top 16 teams advance to the postseason.
“The guys really went after this game, and that made the difference,” Patterson coach Tony Lomeli Jr. said. “Tonight, we wanted this game, and we used that momentum to carry us through to the end.”
Livingston’s big three of Johal Harnarinder, Josh Avina and Brian Rivera came in leading the Wolves to nine victories in 11 games, and they had won two consecutive games against Patterson.
But the Tigers outscored Livingston, 45-34, in the second half, limiting Harnarinder — the WAC’s leading scorer — to two points in the fourth quarter.
Patterson has been sensational in the final two quarters of late. In last week’s 93-34 rout against Gustine, the Tigers allowed only 19 points in the second half while scoring 38.
“I don’t know what has gotten into us in the fourth quarter,” Lomeli said. “Guys just buckle down and have done a great job of just making sure that we challenge every shot.”
Nuckolls made the first series of impact plays after his drive to the hoop was seemingly impeded by Harnarinder. The Patterson senior swooped by and used the rim to shield his reverse layup from the Wolves’ big man.
A second Nuckolls basket, in which he used a crossover dribble to free himself from defenders for an easy finger-roll layup, put Patterson ahead for good, 80-76.
“They beat us on our homecoming, so we had to come back and return the favor,” Nuckolls said.
Nuckolls, who scored seven of his eight points in the fourth quarter, made another layup and tacked on a free throw for good measure. Teammates Felix Mapanda and Kent Foster added 19 points apiece.
“This is a big win for us,” Lomeli said. “Hopefully this will help us bump up (in the power ratings) a little.
“Going into the playoffs, we have a team that is going to be competitive in Division III.”
The JV Tigers pushed out to a big lead in the second quarter and never looked back, soundly defeating Livingston, 61-41.
Patterson’s Granville Runderson led the way with 17 points. Teammates Jewan Jackson and Adan Cortez added 13 and 10 points, respectively. Cody Weinzheimer scored eight points.
The freshman Tigers fell to Livingston, 58-48.
Patterson whittled a 23-point Wolves advantage to seven in the fourth quarter, outscoring Livingston 25-12 in the final frame.
Time eventually ran out on the Tigers’ comeback.