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ROAD TO PACIFIC

Both Manteca teams, RHS boys earn top-4 seeds for postseason

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ROAD TO PACIFIC

Manteca standout Loretta Kakala looks to create space in the lane while guarded by East Union’s Kayla Montoya in a Valley Oak League.


POSTED February 17, 2017 1:01 a.m.



There isn’t an easy path to the finals for the three league titlists from the Manteca area.

Manteca High’s Valley Oak League champion boys and girls teams along with Ripon’s boys, the top dog in the Trans-Valley League, were awarded top-four seeds for their respective brackets in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, assuring that each get two home games should they get through the opening round. 

The section released its postseason brackets Thursday. Semifinal games for Divisions III and IV will be held at neutral sites, and all championship games take place March 3-4 at the University of the Pacific.

Reigning CIF State Division III boys champion Buffaloes (22-5) of Manteca are seeded third in the loaded SJS Division III field behind No. 1 Vanden and No. 2 Capital Christian. They open with battle-tested No. 14 Johnson (17-10) next Wednesday. Johnson’s win over Metro League rival and perennial powerhouse Sacramento has Manteca coach Brett Lewis’ attention.

“Any team that can do that is good in my book,” he said.

Included in this bracket are fellow VOL teams Weston Ranch (17-10) and Lathrop (16-11), seeded ninth and 11th, respectively. Both are Sacramento bound, as Weston Ranch heads to No. 8 Christian Brothers (16-11) while Lathrop travels to No. 6 Rio Americano (15-11).

Two years ago, Weston Ranch made an improbable run to the section finals as the 9 seed, stunning then-No. 1 Christian Brothers in the quarterfinals. The Cougars then defeated Manteca before losing to rival Sierra in the title round.

Other noteworthy teams in this year’s Division III bracket are No. 4 Vista del Lago and No. 5 Placer, who joined Manteca and Weston Ranch in the semifinals in 2016. Weston Ranch went on to claim its first section banner.

“I personally think the bracket is way tougher than it has been the last few years,” Lewis said. “Vanden and Captial Christian are really good, but Placer and Vista del Lago return a lot from last year. It’s going to be a tough road.”

In Division III girls, No. 4 Manteca (16-10) is matched with the third-place team out of the Western Athletic Conference in No. 13 Los Banos (14-13) next Tuesday, but an all-too-familiar foe awaits in the second round. VOL runner-up Kimball (21-6) split its two games with the Buffaloes and are seeded fifth.

“It’s a tough second-round matchup if we’re both able to get there,” Manteca coach Ryan Bono said. “Kimball is a really solid team that gave us fits both times we played them. We kind of hoped it would be later in the playoffs if we were to see them again, but in order to get to where you want to be you have to play whoever they put in front of you. Luckily for us, that game would be at home.”

Joining Manteca is intra-city rival East Union (17-10), which earned an at-large berth after placing fifth in the VOL. The No. 11 Lancers square off with Sierra Delta League champion and sixth-seeded Bradshaw Christian (17-8) on the road.

Rio Linda, Vista del Lago and Patterson are the top three teams in that order. 

“To be honest, as a team we’re happy with the 4 seed,” Bono said. “That was our goal. On MaxPreps we started out 17th (in the Division III rankings) after the preseason. Our goal was to get two home games for the playoffs and we got it, so we’re stoked.”

While also ecstatic to get a coveted top-four seed in Division IV, Ripon boys coach Rod Wright isn’t exactly thrilled about his team’s first-round opponent. The Indians (22-5) drew a dangerous Marysville squad (16-10) that had to forfeit four games in the top-heavy Golden Empire League, which includes Capital Christian and Division IV No. 2 seed West Campus.

It gets even more fun for Ripon should it take care of Marysville. There’s a potential quarterfinal showdown with No. 5 Sonora, which defeated the Indians 57-44 in their season opener. Get past the Wildcats, and defending section champion Central Catholic will likely be there to greet them. Last year, Central Catholic needed overtime to beat Ripon in a second-round thriller.

“It won’t be a cupcake road, that’s for sure,” Wright said. “We have an interesting draw for the first one. Marysville was 16-2 at one point and were rated No. 4 (in Division IV by MaxPreps) just a few weeks ago.”

The only area team to compete in a play-in game tonight is Ripon’s girls in Division IV. The Indians (14-12) are seeded 17th and will encounter Southern League co-champion Orestimba (16-11) in Newman. The winner gets No. 1 West Campus next Tuesday.

No. 6 Lathrop (16-10) will make a second straight appearance in Division IV after reaching the postseason for the first time last year. An automatic qualifier for taking third in the VOL, Lathrop plays host to TVL champion and No. 11 seed Mountain House (19-8).

Both of Ripon Christian’s teams get to host to start the Division V playoffs. The girls (12-14) are seeded sixth and welcome No. 11 Le Grand (9-8) on Tuesday, while the No. 4 Knights boys team (16-10) gets a first-round bye and before tangling with No. 5 Hughes Academy (20-5) next Friday, Feb. 24. Ripon Christian previously beat Hughes Academy 67-56 in the Riverbank Tournament.

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