The Western Athletic Conference’s leading scorer, Johal had 32 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks to help Livingston beat the visiting Tigers, 72-60, on Friday.
Johal toyed with Patterson defenders — scoring 14 points and grabbing five rebounds in the opening six minutes as the Wolves took a 20-13 first-quarter lead.
“Our thing is we have to come out strong and let teams know how the game is going to be played the whole night,” Johal said. “We’ve got to be able to do that every night to be a great team.”
Ronyea Ellington started at center for Patterson, and he picked up two fouls in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Chris Tafoa was the next to try to stop Johal, and he, too, picked up a couple of quick fouls. By then, the 6-foot-5 Johal had seven points.
But it really didn’t matter who guarded Johal, who scored 15 of Livingston’s 20 points in the opening frame and pulled down seven rebounds.
“He was obviously the dominant guy in the first quarter,” Livingston coach Angelo Naldi said. “Getting off to a good start was also important.”
Fouls sent Johal to the bench early in the second quarter, however, and Patterson (11-5, 2-2 WAC) took advantage, scoring in the paint and taking a 26-23 lead with 4:25 remaining in the opening half. Justin Nuckolls scored 10 of his 17 points in the first half for Patterson.
But the Tigers advantage was short-lived, and Johal’s teammates picked up the slack.
Fueled by its role-players — Josh Avina, Gurpreet Sangha and Brian Rivera — Livingston shot its way back into the lead, taking a 39-31 edge into halftime.
Patterson worked to respond early in the second half. Felix Mapanda (20 points), Kent Foster (11 points) and Nuckolls lifted the Tigers to a 16-point third quarter, trimming the Livingston advantage to 52-47.
But Livingston (13-4, 3-1) — paced by a resurgent Johal — put the game away with a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter.
Patterson seemed to be a step slower than the Wolves’ big man all night — late to react to Johal’s springboard-like athleticism and unable to contest his shots in the key.
Friday’s outcome has both teams — recent perennial league powers — headed in opposite directions. Following their lone loss to first-place Central Catholic, the Wolves rebounded and sit in second place in the WAC. Patterson, on the other hand, has lost two of its past three games.
Fortunately for the Tigers, there is still a lot of basketball to be played.
“This is a tough league this year, and anyone can come out and win on any given night,” Patterson coach Tony Lomeli Jr. said.
Down 8-0 to start the game, Patterson JV coach Buzzy Wheeland didn’t opt to call a timeout. Instead, he rallied his players from the sideline. And they responded.
Patterson went on an 18-2 run to close out the first quarter, turning on the afterburners and eventually crushing Livingston, 71-42.
Patterson led by 20 points at halftime, 39-19, and never looked back.
Adan Cortez scored 21 points for the Tigers to lead all scorers. Also, Granville Runderson had 14 points, Cody Weinzheimer nine, Jewan Jackson nine and Frankie Sanchez eight.
The freshman Tigers trimmed Livingston’s lead down to six points with 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as Patterson would get. The Tigers dropped their meeting with the Wolves, who closed on a 9-0 run for a 61-46 win.