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Range’s 24 points, 23 boards help Manteca stave off Weston Ranch

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Range’s 24 points, 23 boards help Manteca stave off Weston Ranch

Manteca High point guard Mikayla Hasal charges past Weston Ranch’s Elisabeth Alexander on a fastbreak opportunity.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 4, 2013 11:40 p.m.

Staying on top won’t be easy for Manteca High’s girls basketball team.

The Valley Oak League’s two-time defending champion was tested for the second time in three nights Friday, holding off visiting Weston Ranch 56-48 behind Courtney Range’s 24 points, 23 rebounds and five blocks.

“I had heard that the league is tough,” said first-year Manteca coach Cody Norman. “We started with Lathrop (on Wednesday), who everybody had finishing in the bottom half of league, and they came out and went hard at us. Weston Ranch was projected to finish in the top half of league and it’s the same thing. Having back-to-back titles, we already have a bull’s-eye on our back.”

The first week of league was also an eye-opener for Range, who played just her second game as a Buffalo. She transferred from Stockton powerhouse St. Mary’s and had to sit out the first 30-plus days of the season.

“I’m adjusting to different styles of play and trying to be a leader, and so far it’s going well,” she said. “Sitting out 30 days was horrible. When you think about it it’s just 30 days, but it felt like a real long time. It just felt good being back on the court.”

Manteca (2-0, 7-5 overall) leaned on its two college-bound seniors to prevail. Point guard Mikayla Hasal, on her way to Cal State Stanislaus, poured in 18 points, while Range — heading to Cal — had a heavy impact on both ends of the floor and scored in a variety ways. Jasmine Odell contributed 12 rebounds, and Jessica Hasal swiped five steals.

Sophomore Elisabeth Alexander pumped in 18 points and 13 rebounds to pace Weston Ranch. Briana White added 10 points and six boards, and A.J. Brown dished out 10 assists.

It was a back-and-forth struggle from start to finish — Manteca’s 48-40 lead with 5:16 left was the largest of the contest. But every time the Buffs appeared primed to pull away, Weston Ranch had an answer.

Emoni Wilson (9 points) drained two free throws with 1:42 to go and closed the Cougars (1-1, 6-6) in, 51-48. Manteca sealed it at the free-throw line, where it was just 12 for 25 but sank 5 of its last 8 in the final 1:27.

“We played a couple of up-and-down games in the (Tracy) tournament, but nothing like this,” Mikayla Hasal said. “We just got after each other like we do every year. It may have been a new experience for some of the girls, but they kept their composure really well.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Buffaloes, who play a nonleague game at Lincoln of Stockton tonight before hitting the road for two pivotal games at Sonora and Kimball — two more squads that are legitimate threats to their throne.

“We’re not taking league lightly, but this just solidifies that every night is going to be tough,” Norman said.

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