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LATHROP SETS SIGHTS ON PLAYOFF BERTH

Spartans stave off Manteca to snap three-game skid

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LATHROP SETS SIGHTS  ON PLAYOFF BERTH

Lathrop High’s Joseph Sausau draws the foul while attacking the basket.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED February 9, 2012 12:48 a.m.

The playoffs before the playoffs began Wednesday for Lathrop High’s boys basketball team.

Coming off a three-game losing streak, the Spartans earned a much-needed 57-47 win at Manteca High’s Winter Gymnasium while beating the Buffaloes for a third time this season.

The losing skid dropped Lathrop (5-6 Valley Oak League, 12-11 overall) from the seventh seed down to 12th in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff ratings. The top-16 rated squads qualify.

“I put a lot of pressure on the boys this week,” Lathrop coach Bill Slikker said. “Going from seven to 12 is a big drop, so we can’t afford to lose anymore. We’re not just trying to make the playoffs, we want a decent seed.”

While happy with the win, Slikker was displeased with the finish.

Joseph Sausau (seven points, seven rebounds, five assists) buried a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to give Lathrop its largest lead, 47-30. Then nerves began to take over, leading to sloppy play.

“We were playing with alligator arms and had someone shoot an air ball on a free throw — just some uncharacteristic (moments),” Slikker said. “We were trying to not lose instead of trying to win in the fourth quarter.”

Manteca went on a 12-2 run capped by Ben Odell’s transition layup off his own steal at midcourt, cutting the deficit to seven, 53-46, with 3:57 remaining. Taylor Hasal poured in 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter for the Buffaloes, who were held to just one point over the final three minutes. Odell finished with 15 points.

“I don’t think we ever got into a flow offensively,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “We were able to get some easy buckets in the fourth with some pressure and Lathrop’s mishaps, but we never really executed and got into a flow the whole game.”

Some of that was due to the absence of key players. Sophomores Austin Haro and Nick Obazuaye were both out with fevers, forcing Asuncion to thrust little-used reserves into action.

“We’re a no-excuse basketball team,” he said. “We needed other guys to step up.”

Junior point guard Robert Orantes stepped up in a big way early on for Lathrop. He poured in 13 points in the opening quarter and had 19 at halftime, finishing with 24 points, four assists and five steals.

Orantes’ two free throws with 4:06 to go represented Lathrop’s final points in the first half. The scoring drought allowed Manteca to go into the break with a manageable 30-21 deficit.

“As a point guard I know when I have to help my team out,” Orantes said. “When other people aren’t hitting shots I have to step up and make some big shots.”

Lathrop next hosts first-place Sierra — which drubbed the Spartans the first time around, 71-44 — Friday, but there are more winnable games ahead. They close the regular season at home against Oakdale and on the road against Kimball next week, two teams that sit below them in the league standings.

“We’re hungry because we’ve never been there before, and that’s why we’re not going to overlook anybody,” Slikker said. “These guys want to make playoffs as much as I do.”

Sophomore

Manteca 48, Lathrop 29

The Buffaloes (9-2, 16-6) erupted in the second half after a sluggish start. They were up 13-7 at halftime.

Dillon Lauborough paced Manteca with 13 points, while Alex Jorgensen checked in with 12. Nilo Yuson led Lathrop with 15 points.

Freshman

Manteca 57, Lathrop 34

The VOL’s top squad improved to 10-1 and 14-1 overall.

Lechi Nkwocha spearheaded a balanced scoring effort with 11 points and was followed by Keyshawn Shackleford’s 10. Dominic Pisano and Enrique Flores contributed nine apiece.

 

To contact Jonamar Jacinto, email jjacinto@mantecabulletin.com, or call (209) 249-3538.

 

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