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SECOND TO NONE

Buffaloes blast Davis for Classic crown

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SECOND TO NONE

Manteca's Reggie Bell (l), Gerry Cooper and Mitch Hernandez pose with the Modesto City Classic championship trophy after beating Davis 77-60 Saturday at Enochs High.

JAGADA CHAMBERS/The Bulletin


POSTED December 6, 2009 2:16 a.m.
MODESTO – Davis High outscored Manteca in the second quarter closing the halftime deficit to a point, but a 21-6 run to open the second half provided the distance in the Buffaloes’ 77-60 Modesto City Classic championship win over the Spartans Saturday at Enochs High.

Manteca (4-0) closed out an impressive tournament run with their most balanced effort to date, finishing off Davis with three players in double-digits including a dominant 18-point performance in the paint from E.J. Godfrey.

The Buffaloes were able to outlast the remainder of the 16-team field behind a lofty 78 points per game average, accompanied by the brilliant individual play of junior guard Kiwi Gardner. Gardner’s play earned him a spot on the all-tournament team, alongside senior Gerry Cooper.

“The effort we had out there is much more than what we’ll take from the guys,” Manteca head coach Dave Asuncion said. “It was good seeing everyone get involved. They did a great job frustrating Kiwi early, but he’s our floor general and he settled down and got us back under control.”

With a heroic 52-point effort in the semi-final, Gardner turned to his teammates to tote some of the load in the final. Every Buffaloe responded to the challenge, divvying the load amongst one another, with Mitchell Hernandez, Ernie Pimentel and Godfrey playing monumental roles in the win.

“Mitch has done a great job for us in practice and has gotten a lot better over the summer,” Asuncion said. “He is going to play a key role for us throughout the year. E.J. just keeps improving every day. He is listening in practice and he wants to get better.

“You can’t teach size, so once we turn him into a beast down there, look out.”

Manteca held an 18-13 lead after one, but a lackadaisical effort to open the second period left a stubborn Davis squad with reason to believe. The third period held a different flavor as Gardner hit a three, Hernandez nailed a pair of deep 3-pointers and Matt Burrows came off the bench scoring to push a one-point Manteca lead to 17.

“Over this entire four-day tournament I learned that everybody on my team is a warrior,” Gardner said. “My team is going to come out fighting hard. Even if I am hitting every shot, or I am missing everything, my team is going to play hard. We’ve been practicing hard every day.

“When you’re practicing hard, that same momentum is going to carry over into the games.”

Pimentel shared game-high scoring honors with Gardner with 20 points, complimenting the attention demanding Gardner with pinpoint accuracy from all over the perimeter.

“I missed a lot of shots (Friday), so I had to relax and just keep taking shots,” Pimentel said of his outing. “I kind of got down on myself, but I was able to come out tonight and play hard.”

Manteca took huge steps in the right direction with the tournament title, giving a legitimate basketball team a solid foundation.

“It’s funny I never did hear them saying lets win a championship, it’s always just win the game,” Asuncion said. “They know we want to get better, they know the areas where we can improve. Obviously, defensively we want to improve, but I thought we did a nice job keying on (Kori Johnson). We knew he was their leading scorer and that was Gerry Cooper’s assignment.

“I texted him early in the day and told him ‘You have a job tonight’ and he did a great job for us.”

The Buffaloes will be pursuing back-to-back tournament titles when they kick off the Turlock Journal Frank Godinez Tournament Dec. 10.

Ceres 62, East Union 55
The Lancers were unable to close out a solid tournament showing with a win, getting outscored down the stretch by the Bulldogs. Robert Vaughn led the Lancers with 11 points and Teejay Gordon finished with 10. Freshman Jordan Kron added 10 as well and was honored with a spot on the all-tournament team.

Downey 52, Lathrop 31
Umar Muriset led the Spartans with 14 points as they dropped their consolation game to the Knights. Lathrop (0-5) will be back on the court Tuesday when they play host to Consumnes River Oaks.
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