The well-traveled contingent of passionate Tigers fans began to stand and cheer, while the Vanden student section looked on uneasily.
Thirty-five seconds later the home team's hibernation was over when junior Jihad Woods slipped past the Patterson defense, and the 6-foot-7 forward put in a basket to clip the deficit to three, while sparking a 21-8 run to give the second-seeded Vikings a 66-58 victory over the No. 15 Tigers.
The win avenges a eight-point loss to Patterson in the first round of last year's playoffs, when the Tigers outscored Vanden 21-11 in the third period to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Trailing Vanden (18-10) by five points to start the second quarter and with its season hanging in the balance, Patterson (14-13) turned to its two constants Wednesday night -- senior leadership and staunch defense.
The Tigers were paced by three seniors as Levu led Patterson with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and classmates Justin Rodriguez (three rebounds) and Michael Smith (three rebounds, three steals) each added 13 points.
In addition to the trio of seniors, the Tigers got a taste of their future as junior Kevin Phelps contributed 11 rebounds of his own, and sophomore Michael Lawson added another level of intensity off the bench.
After starting the game shooting 24 percent (4-of-17) in the first period, the Tigers found their offensive footing in the second quarter and beyond, limited giveaways and continually penetrated the Vanden defense by attacking the lane once in the front court.
Thomas Avent (22 points) of Vanden completed an old-fashioned three-point play by tossing in a layup and drawing contact, making it 14-5 with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter.
But Patterson finished the period strong and kept the game close thanks to a bucket by Levu and a blocked shot by Lawson that started a fast break that senior Jordan Dinu (seven points) finished with a pull-up jumper.
The Tigers outscored Vanden 21-12 in the second quarter, and back-to-back baskets by Smith with 3:38 left in the opening half gave Patterson its second lead of the contest, 22-20, since it was 3-2 in the early going.
Patterson led by as much as seven points (27-20) in the second quarter before the Vikings went on a 6-0 spurt to pull back to within one point with 20 seconds remaining before halftime.
However, Dinu beat the first-half buzzer giving the Tigers a four-point cushion (30-26), on a three-pointer at the elbow.
The third quarter was close throughout, with three lead changes and five ties. But senior Daniel Kelepi (five rebounds) split a pair of free throws to give the Tigers a three-point lead (46-43) heading into the final eight minutes.
Putting four solid quarters together has been a problem all season for Patterson, and it proved costly Wednesday night.
After trailing by five twice early in the fourth quarter, Vanden took control.
Following Levu's bucket with 6:32 to play, Patterson didn't score until the all-league stalwart connected on a three-pointer with 1:31 left. By then the Vikings were putting the finishing touches on a run that blew the game open.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com.