The Wolf Den at Great Oak High School became a dungeon for the Murrieta Mesa Rams' varsity boys basketball team Thursday night.
A physical Wolfpack team was determined to win its first ever Southwestern League championship. Great Oak took to the wood in front of the packed house full of cheering fans and did not disappoint.
Senior center Justin Sadler was a domineering presence for Great Oak. He led the Wolfpack to victory with 23 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Forward Patrick Sniff added 12 points and 15 rebounds for Great Oak, while Latrelle Franklin scored 14 points and had seven assists plus two steals.
The loss dropped the Rams to a 16-11 overall, 6-4 league record for third place in the Southwestern League final standings behind the second-place Murrieta Valley Nighthawks.
A Ram win would have given them a share of first place, as they had defeated the Wolfpack for their lone loss earlier in the season.
The Rams started well enough, trailing the Wolfpack 17-13 in the first period. The Wolfpack controlled the boards from there on and the officials let the game get rough and physical. Murrieta Mesa trailed 21-35 at the half.
The game got out of hand for the Rams in the third period as Great Oak increased its lead by 23 points. Final score: Wolfpack 72, Rams 51.
Murrieta Mesa Coach Russell Ham reorganized his lineup and brought up some players to get ready for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Khalil Sharpe led the Murrieta Mesa attack with 14 points and 9 rebounds. Shane Staton scored 11, Trevon Session seven, Jerid Pegg five, and Shondell Smith four. Bryan Phan came in and scored six while Andrew Smith and Austin Bryant two apiece.
"We had a tough time with there size and guard play. They're league champs for a reason," Ham said.
"I'm disappointed we weren't able to bring a title home but proud of our guys for putting themselves in a position to do so. We have to brush it off and turn our focus on a playoff run."
Great Oak ends the regular season with a 17-8 overall, 8-2 league record heading into CIF Southern Section playoffs.