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MANTECA EDGES SIERRA

Washington hits game-winner with 16 seconds left

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MANTECA EDGES SIERRA

Manteca guard Sharon Washington loses control of the ball while sandwiched by the defense of Sierra post players Jaslynn Liotard, left, and Alysia Atkins in Tuesday's pivotal Valley Oak League cont...

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 20, 2010 2:45 a.m.

Stephanie Vanni and the rest of the Sierra girls basketball team made it a point to bottle up Manteca’s top scoring threat, Sharon Washington, in Tuesday’s pivotal Valley Oak League contest.

The Timberwolves succeeded, holding the standout junior guard to just 13 points. But Washington was able to score the two points that mattered.

On Manteca’s final possession, Washington took Vanni off the dribble from the top of the key and knifed her way through the heart of Sierra’s defense for the game-winning layup with 16 seconds remaining.

Sierra did not call timeout before attempting to tie the score or win the game, and Jasmine Currimao’s deep 3-pointer fell short as the Buffaloes celebrated the 39-37 home victory.

“We kind of drew a blank for minute, and I wanted to win no matter what,” Washington said. “If I had to take the last shot then I had to take the last shot. That’s what it came down to, and that’s what I had to do.”

The Buffaloes appeared to take full control of what was a nip-and-tuck struggle all game early in the fourth when Washington and freshman guard Mikayla Hasal keyed a 9-0 run to go up 37-29.

Hasal rattled in seven of her game-high 15 points during that 2-minute stretch, and Washington capped it with a steal under Sierra’s own basket followed by an uncontested layup.

But Sierra countered with its own 9-0 flurry highlighted by Jasmine Currimao’s 3-pointer. Alysia Atkins, who led the Timberwolves with eight points and nine rebounds, sank two free throws to knot the score at 37 with 42.9 seconds remaining.

Sierra coach Steve Unterholzner said that he had no intention of calling timeout after Washington hit the deciding bucket.

“They were given instructions on what they had to do during that last timeout (with 1:05 left), and those instructions still stood after Sharon scored,” Unterholzner said. “We had two open looks, we just didn’t take them.

“I was glad to see the girls fight back in the end. We’re getting ourselves into that position, now we just have to learn how to get out of there with a win. Part of it is that we’re young.”

Sierra (3-3, 8-8 overall) fell out of a three-way tie for third place in the VOL with the loss. Manteca (4-2, 11-6) and Weston Ranch, which handled first-year varsity Lathrop Tuesday, moved into a three-way tie for second with idle Sonora.

Sierra has certainly earned its respect around the league despite its youth and losing its first four games in the non-league season. The Timberwolves notched big wins against Oakdale and Sonora on the road and played three-time defending champion East Union tough in a 51-44 loss on Jan. 8.

The Buffaloes needed the win, even if it was an ugly one, after dropping two heartbreakers to Ceres and Central Valley last week.

“We’ve been on a little bit of a skid so it’s nice to walk out of the gym with a win today,” Manteca coach Andrea Hiatt said. “Sierra is a good team, they’re very physical and they hustle. You can’t take that away from them, they played from start to end going for the win.”

The big week continues for both teams, as Sierra heads to Weston Ranch and Manteca plays host to East Union Thursday. Manteca previously beat the Lancers 52-47 in the Tom Hawkins/Tracy Breakfast Lions Tournament last month.

“Win or lose, you can’t spend too much time celebrating or moaning groaning about it,” Unterholzner said. “You have to pack up and get ready for the next game.”

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