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BUFFALOES ROLL WITHOUT KIWI

Seniors pick up slack for defending champs

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BUFFALOES ROLL WITHOUT KIWI

Manteca guard Ernie Pimentel splits the defense of Oakdale posts Blake Thompson, left, and Nate Madsen during the Buffaloes' 55-42 home victory Tuesday.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 6, 2010 2:43 a.m.
Manteca High’s defending Valley Oak League champion boys basketball team began its title defense against visiting Oakdale Tuesday and had little trouble in dispatching the overmatched Mustangs, 55-42.

But the difference in play without the services of star point guard Kiwi Gardner and his team-leading 27.4-points-oer-game average was considerable.

Seniors Ernie Pimentel and Gerry Cooper picked up the slack for the Buffaloes, who snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 8-4 overall.

Pimentel shared ball-handling duties with Taylor Hasal and Mitch Hernandez, finishing with 17 points and four steals. Hasal (four assists) and Hernandez added eight points apiece.  

Cooper poured in 10 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and four blocks; and junior center E.J. Godfrey dropped in 10 of his own points.
“We got to run more sets, move the ball around and everyone got their touches,” Pimentel said of the changes made without Gardner in the lineup. “We did OK overall, but he’s a big part of our team and we missed him.”

While Manteca only turned the ball over seven times, it could have used the explosive Gardner to help bury Oakdale (0-1, 3-6) earlier in the contest.

After taking a commanding 14-2 lead to start the contest and stretching it to 16-5 by the end of the quarter, Manteca’s offense stalled as its outside shooting cooled off and no consistent threat to penetrate the defense.

“We’re a different team without Kiwi, so we’re still adjusting to playing without him,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “It’s a feeling-out process for us because we’ve always practiced with him there. You can tell there was some indecisiveness because we couldn’t rely on him to bail us out when our motion (offense) wasn’t working.”

Oakdale was able to cut the deficit to six on three occasions in the third quarter but was down double digits for the entire fourth. The Mustangs stayed in the game by dominating the boards, 43-28, and pulled down 11 of their 18 offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone.

Oakdale got its best efforts in the post from Nate Madsen (15 points, 17 rebounds) and Jacob Martinez (15 points, eight rebounds, two blocks). Sophomore point guard Marcu Hernandez had just three points but dished out six assists.

Gardner is serving a three-day suspension from school and is prohibited to take part, even as a spectator, at all campus-related activities.

He is sitting out per California Interscholastic Federation rules for making contact with an official during a non-league tournament game at Modesto Christian Dec. 28. The incident is under investigation by the school and Sac-Joaquin Section, and can’t play until a ruling is made.

The review process can take up to 10 working days, so he can miss five league contests before the section makes its decision.

Asuncion is pleased, for the most part, with how his team performed without its best player, but the talented Buffaloes have room for improvement.

“We’re going to be much better than we showed tonight, we know we have to,” Asuncion said. “Coming into halftime guys were upset over things they could have done better. After the game there was no big celebration because they know we have to do things right.

“Every team in this league is going to be competitive like that. We can’t just expect to go on a big first-quarter run like that and expect any team in our league to just roll over. Every game is going to be tight, even with Kiwi.”
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