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STATEMENT MADE

Lady Spartans nearly spoil Range’s debut for Manteca

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STATEMENT MADE

Manteca High newcomer Courtney Range goes behind the back with her dribble while pressured by Lathrop’s Marissa Elliott. To view more photos, visit LeonardPhoto.com

CHRIS LEONARD/LeonardPhoto.com/


POSTED January 3, 2013 12:30 a.m.

Courtney Range made her anticipated debut for Manteca High’s girls basketball team in its Valley Oak League opener Wednesday.

Visiting Lathrop nearly stole the show, but Manteca’s Jessica Hasal stole the inbounds pass that led to the winning bucket in a thrilling 52-50 win for the Buffaloes.

Lathrop (0-1, 5-8 overall) came out of a timeout with 3.8 seconds remaining after Range sank the second of two free throws to tie it. Lathrop inbounded the ball from its own baseline, but Hasal intercepted it and quickly gunned it to freshman Elizabeth Tolbert, who beat the buzzer and the upset-minded Spartans with an uncontested layup.

“Once I saw that pass come in I knew I could go for it,” said Hasal, who finished with six points, four steals and three assists. “I give big props to Lizzie for being there. I just kind of threw it to her, and I give her credit for making that shot with all that pressure.”

With Range joining the squad, Manteca (1-0, 6-5) is a sure contender for a third straight VOL championship. The St. Mary’s transfer and Cal-bound standout had to sit out Manteca’s entire pre-league schedule because of the California Interscholastic Federation’s new transfer rule.

Range entered the game with 3:49 to go in the opening quarter, and immediately impacted the game, tallying seven of her eight blocks in the first half and finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals. The 6-foot-2 wing even showed off her touch, converting 2 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Lathrop, however, was not intimidated.

Undersized but energetic center Loreal Taylor typified Lathrop’s scrappy play, amassing 15 points and 17 rebounds. Crafty guard Janet Visaya added 13 points, and Briana Fernandez had nine. Taylor Conley contributed 10 rebounds.

The Spartans came back from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter and held a 48-43 advantage with 3:43 left in the contest. They were doomed by turnovers on three straight possessions and had 32 giveaways total.

Still, the point was made by the fourth-year varsity team looking to make the postseason for the first time.

“This is a measure of our team this year,” Lathrop coach Ed Fang. “We are a true contender, and now teams have got to take us serious. We had this game, but there were a couple bounces here and there that didn’t go our way.”

Manteca appeared to be on its way to breaking it open in the third quarter when they scored 10 unanswered points and built a 41-30 lead. Range subbed out, and Lathrop made its run.

Visaya punctuated the Spartans’ 12-0 flurry with back-to-back layups and put them ahead for the first time at 42-21 with 6:37 left.

Manteca point guard Mikayla Hasal (10 points), slowed by foul trouble in the first half, answered with a fastbreak bucket, but Range and the Buffaloes went cold from the field and were scoreless for nearly four minutes.

“We’re still trying to get the wheel in motion continuously, but we just keep having these little 3-to-4-minute (lulls),” Manteca coach Cody Norman said. “But I give (Lathrop) a lot of credit because they played like they wanted it. They came out with intensity on every possession.”

Norman is also still trying to get his full complement of players for a game. Manteca still hasn’t had its entire starting rotation available, as third-year forward Jasmine Odell was serving a one-game suspension for getting ejected from the Buffaloes’ final game in the Tom Hawkins/Tracy Breakfast Lions Tournament.

“She does a lot for us,” Norman said. “She makes a big difference with her speed and athletic ability. Having a full squad would be nice.”

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