The Tigers already knocked off Central Catholic High of Modesto -- the reigning Western Athletic Conference champion -- on Jan. 16, a critical step on the path to a league title.
But thanks to an 8-0 WAC record, the Tigers are all alone at the top of the conference standings. For the first time in six seasons, the tables are turned -- it's Patterson with the target on its back.
"We are in position to win our school's first (league) basketball title in six seasons," said Patterson coach Agustin Arreola. "Our players need to expect everyone's best shot. Everyone in our league is improving and several teams are competing for a playoff spot."
Last week, Patterson (19-4) stretched its overall winning streak to 12 games with a pair of nail-biters.
The Tigers began with a 60-56 road victory Friday, Jan. 25 over the Livingston High Wolves, and followed with a 62-60 win Saturday, January 26, over the visiting Central Valley High Hawks of Ceres.
"Although the past few games haven't been pretty, our boys found a way to persevere and come away with victories," Arreola said. "I'm proud of our boys' overall effort."
In Livingston, Patterson turned up the defensive pressure, and watched the Wolves (10-11, 2-5) wilt down the stretch.
"Our defense in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference," Arreola said. "Our on-the-ball defense stepped up, forcing many turnovers, and resulting in fast-break opportunities."
Patterson was paced by senior Keegan Sanchez's 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Junior Cariaun Williams (three rebounds) scored 11, and sophomore Kevin Phelps (five rebounds) added 10 for the Tigers.
On Saturday, the Tigers put on a show early on going up by as much as eight in the first quarter before the Hawks (7-4, 2-5) opted to not allow Patterson to just walk out with an easy victory.
Trailing 62-60 with 18 seconds left in the game, Ryan Donnelly missed a 3-pointer that could have given Central Valley a lead, but Patterson couldn't control the rebound.
Instead, Central Valley's Jaron Dixon corralled the loose ball and was fouled in the act of shooting with three seconds remaining. After missing his first free throw, Dixon tried to miss the second free throw on purpose, apparently to give his team another chance of tying or winning the game.
Dixon intentionally missed the second but the ball didn't hit the rim and the Tigers took the possession.
"Central Valley played a great game and deserved to win," Arreola said. "We were fortunate to escape with the victory."
Junior Jordan Levu (nine rebounds) scored six of his 14 points in the opening period and Patterson led 13-5 near the four-minute mark of the first quarter.
But the visitors caught fire and closed the first on a 13-0 run to take an 18-13 advantage.
Junior Jordan Dinu's 3-pointer gave Patterson a brief 27-25 edge with just under four minutes left in the second quarter. Neither team, however, backed off, and Dixon capped the period with a layup that tied the game at halftime, 31-31.
Tied 36-36 with 4 minutes, 31 seconds left in the third quarter, Patterson outscored Central Valley 12-5 to take a 48-41 lead into the final frame.
Senior Skylar Job (15 points, seven rebounds) and Phelps (13 points, five rebounds) combined to score 11 of Patterson's 14 in the fourth quarter, as the Tigers held on, winning for the 16th time in their last 17 games.
Arreola expressed his excitement about Phelps' recent play.
"(Phelps) has made a seamless transition from junior varsity to varsity. He is a good all-around player who improves each and every time he steps on the court," Arreola said. "He has been a valuable addition to the team and provides us with more depth."
While the second-year coach is pleased with his team's play so far, he is quick to acknowledge that the Tigers still have some work to do.
"If we are to continue this run, we must play smarter on both ends of the court," Arreola said. "We must remain disciplined and focused. I believe we will do just that."
The Tigers will continue league play at home against Ceres High (10-11, 3-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1.
The JV Tigers posted a pair of victories over WAC foes Livingston and Central Valley last week.
The Tigers opened with a 67-39 triumph on the road against the Wolves on Friday, Jan. 25 and finished the week by besting the Hawks 53-40 at home on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Against Livingston, Mylek McDowell had 28 points, including five 3-pointers for the Tigers, while teammate Devin Burnett added 13 points and nine rebounds.
On Saturday, McDowell had 20 points, while Caesar Durazo (nine rebounds) and Gurkirt Heerey (six rebounds) each tallied nine for Patterson (6-2 WAC).
The freshman Tigers also notched two victories last week — a 73-55 defeat of host Livingston on Friday, Jan. 25 and a 56-38 besting of visiting Central Valley on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Avery DeHoyos scored 30 points and Michael Lawson had 19 as they led Patterson over the Wolves.
Against Central Valley, Lawson scored 13 points and DeHoyos notched 10. Adam Hansen recorded 10 rebounds for the Tigers (7-1 WAC).
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.