HANFORD — With a 73-49 win over Wonderful College Prep Academy on Saturday, Sierra Pacific won the 9th Annual Golden Bears Tip Off Classic tournament.
Omar Ybarra led the Golden Bears with 20 points, Jayson Littlejohn scored 11 points and Matthew Peeples added 10 points. Littlejohn was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, while Arijeet Grewal made the All-Tournament Team.
The victory also gave Sierra Pacific a 4-0 start to the season. It’s the third time in school history the Golden Bears have started off 4-0 with the last two times (2016-17, 2012-13) resulting in trips to the playoffs.
On Friday, Sierra Pacific was tested against Riverdale, but they buckled down on defense and executed on offense in crunch time. The Golden Bears’ clutch play earned them a 48-41 victory over Riverdale.
Grewal found the range on Friday night with four 3-pointers and led his team in scoring with 12 points. Grewal’s fourth 3-pointer came at a crucial point and tied the game 34-34 after the Cowboys had just grabbed their largest lead of the game.
“It’s my job,” Grewal said. “We all have a job out here and when we do our job, good things happen.
“Last game I had an off game, one of my teammates stepped up, this time I stepped up. That’s what we work on in practice. We have two teams going at each other and it’s great to know that someone else has our backs for us.”
Matthew Peeples’ layup gave the Golden Bears the lead back and they stayed in front over the last 6:36 with help from all around. Ybarra hit a free throw and Littlejohn’s putback made it a four-point game.
The Cowboys cut the lead to two with a pair of free throws, but guard Raymond Carre splashed a corner 3-pointer coming out of a Sierra Pacific timeout. Caleb Murray hit his own 3-pointer on their next possession and the Golden Bears ended the game on an 8-3 run.
“It was great to see my teammates do good things,” Sierra Pacific guard Nate Mundine said. “We’ve put a lot of work in over the summer, so every time we see somebody score it’s always a great feeling.”
Littlejohn and Ybarra each finished with eight points. Mundine scored three points, but he was a catalyst at point guard for the offensive and defensive intensity.
It was another tight contest throughout the first half, but a low-scoring affair as both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net early on.
Grewal’s 3-pointer gave the Golden Bears an 11-7 lead with 5:01 left in the first quarter, but neither team scored the rest of the way.
It wasn’t much better in the second quarter with both teams scoring single digits this time. Ybarra’s 3-pointer gave the team a 14-7 lead, but the Cowboys went on a 9-2 run to knot the game 16-16.
Peeples’ free throw and Brian Quezada’s layup gave Sierra Pacific a 19-16 lead at halftime.
After trailing for almost three quarters, Riverdale, who entered the game with a perfect 4-0 record, took its first lead of the game in the third quarter with two free throws, 30-29. Grewal scored on the ensuing possession, but the Cowboys hit a layup to lead 32-31 after three quarters.
“We have a lot of room to improve,” Sierra Pacific coach Kenneth Vossler said. “Early on you just want to see what’s all there. Just looking for the right combination of guys that are going to do what we need them to do.”
Sierra Pacific (4-0) has its first East Sequoia League game of the season next Monday against Woodlake (2-5). Last season, the Golden Bears swept the Tigers and went 5-5 in league play finishing in fourth place.