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Gutierrez drains game-winning three at buzzer

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Manteca High's Jaqi Gutierrez reacts as the crowd erupts after the sophomore nailed her fourth 3-poointer of the game to give Manteca a thrilling come-from-behind victory on the game's final play.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED December 12, 2009 2:48 a.m.
With 4.4 seconds remaining in the contest the Manteca Buffaloes strolled out of their final timeout with only one chance at victory. The chance became reality when sophomore Jaqi Gutierrez nailed a desperation 3-pointer as time expired, sending the Buffaloe faithful into frenzy and the Pitman Pride home with a 57-55 loss.

Gutierrez was not the team’s primary option after the timeout, but a Pitman double team on Manteca leading scorer Sharon Washington laid the groundwork for Gutierrez’ biggest shot as a Manteca Buffaloe.

“I have a lot of confidence in Jaqi, she was hot tonight and she has been hot lately,” Manteca head coach Andrea Hiatt said. “Jaqi was smart enough to realize that the clock was winding down and she needed to take the shot.”

The Buffaloes (3-2) seemingly would be in no position to celebrate any late game heroics, as Pitman pulled away late in the final period. A see-saw battle throughout the evening suddenly turned into a Manteca 11-point deficit with just under four minutes to play.

“I have got competitors on my team,” Hiatt said of the fourth quarter deficit.  “They don’t like to lose and they don’t want to roll over and die. That’s what we talked about during that timeout, that there was a lot of time left in this game, we just had to focus.”

An inspired effort defensively created turnovers and Manteca was able to capitalize on its chances. The Buffaloes chipped away, finally finding themselves down three with 45 seconds to play. Senior Brianna Wallace swiped a huge steal and dished it off to Washington for a layup to cut the Pitman lead to one. Manteca fouled Pitman standout Ashley Attaway (24 points) and she made good on a pair of free throws, again leaving the Buffaloes down three.

With the game in the balance, Manteca’s Davina Bennett hauled in an offensive rebound and put-back, cutting the Pitman lead back to one. The Buffaloes were forced to foul, this time reaping the benefits of two Pitman misses. Washington snatched the rebound and got to half court before calling timeout so Hiatt could set up the agenda.

When Washington was covered Gutierrez was ready and she hit a shot that will likely have a profound effect on the remainder of the Buffaloes’ season.

“This victory definitely brought us together,” Hiatt said of the emotional win. “We were in a funk, we were down. Honestly, we did not play very well (Friday). We turned the ball over 33 times. Ordinarily you can’t win a game when you turn the ball over that many times, but they busted their butts to get back in the game.

“This group never says die.”

Washington led the Buffaloes with 20 points and Bennett had a monstrous game, including 14 points and 12 rebounds. Gutierrez finished with 12 points, all coming from behind the arc.

Manteca will look to keep its momentum rolling when they make the trip north to take on Davis High Thursday at 7 p.m.
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