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Buffaloes picking up steam after beating rival Timberwolves

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Buffaloes picking up steam after beating rival Timberwolves

Sierra's Mariah Gray gets her shot off over Manteca's Cynthia Perez.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED February 6, 2009 5:02 a.m.
The Buffaloes are beginning to believe.

With its postseason hopes fading with two weeks left in the Valley Oak League season, Manteca appears to be peaking at just the right time.

Manteca took another step toward achieving its goal Thursday by avenging two earlier losses to host Sierra with a 43-39 win, claiming back-to-back games for the first time since mid-December over the preseason.

The Buffaloes (3-7, 10-13 overall) entered the week ranked 20th in the first Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff power ratings, and only 16 teams get in. Sierra (4-6, 0-10) finds itself in the same boat in Division III, where it is ranked 22nd.

The Timberwolves previously beat Manteca 54-51 during the Stagg Tournament in December, and 59-44 in league last month.

“We have to believe in ourselves,” Manteca coach Andrea Hiatt said. “The girls need to believe in (assistant coach Sara Cross) and I, and Sara and I have to believe in the girls.

“We’re not going to roll over and die. We have something to play for still. We’re trying to not be the team that everyone sees on the calendar and says, ‘Oh, we’re just playing Manteca.’”

Hiatt gave kudos to her starting five for producing big plays in crunch time.  

Kristi Llamas’ long jumper from the left wing with the shot clock running down with 27 seconds left stretched the Buffaloes’ fragile lead to 41-37.

Davina Bennett had a big steal with a minute and a half remaining, and Morgan Salsedo and Sharon Washington each made one of two free throws during the final moments. Washington’s free throws came after she intercepted Ariel McIntyre’s pass on a 2-on-1 fastbreak opportunity with five seconds to go and the Timberwolves needing a 3-pointer to tie it.

“We went into it believing, and we achieved what we knew we could,” said Salsedo, whose uncle Issac Gutierrez coaches Sierra. “We worked hard and everybody played well.”

Washington, a sophomore, continues to play beyond her years, as she followed Tuesday’s 25-point effort in a 57-29 blowout of Central Valley with 16 points, six rebounds and four steals.

Cynthia Perez added eight points, five rebounds and four steals; while Bennett pitched in seven points, 10 rebounds and four steals.

Perez and Bennett’s biggest contribution, said Hiatt, was their defense of Sierra 5-foot-10 center Heather Scharmann and McIntyre. Sierra’s intimidating front-court tandem combined for 41 points in Tuesday’s 54-46 upset of Sonora.

They each were held to 10 points Thursday, though McIntyre finished with 17 rebounds and three blocks.

“Our primary objective was to stop them because they’re real good,” Hiatt said. “I thought that our defense was great on them. We’re not big, everyone knows that, but we have a lot of heart.”

Sierra’s guards picked up the slack in the third quarter, when Rebecca Wroten and Natalie Goulart each drained 3-pointer to spark a 10-1 run that pushed them ahead, 29-26.

“This is our third time playing them, and it’s not easy beating the same team three times,” Sierra assistant coach Johnny Aguilar said. “They made adjustments and put the game in our guards’ hands. They took our inside game away from us, and that’s our bread and butter.”
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