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Buffs bury Bulldogs for third straight win
Washington pours in 20 points to lead push for playoffs
Manteca High point guard Sharon Washington gets behind Ceres defender Lily Jaimes. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin
Plan B worked out beautifully.
With Ceres down two and needing a quick foul to regain possession, Manteca’s Cynthia Perez, with no one open in front of her, sent the inbounds pass flying over the Bulldogs’ fullcourt press and hit Sharon Washington in stride.
Washington laid it in with six seconds left and drew the foul. Her missed free throw didn’t matter, as Manteca went on to prevail 45-41 for its third straight Valley Oak League victory while ending Ceres’ win streak at five Tuesday at Winter Gymnasium.
“We weren’t even planning on running that (play), and at the last second I heard coach (Andrea Hiatt) yell my name,” said Washington, who continued her recent tear with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists. “I just saw Cynthia throw it, so I ran. It was the perfect pass.”
Manteca (4-7, 11-13) won three in a row for the first time all season but must stretch that streak in order to sneak into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs.
The Buffaloes are currently ranked 18th according the latest postseason power ratings and needs to crack the top 16 to get in. Ceres (7-4, 11-12), which now trails VOL leader East Union by two games with three to go, is 14th in Division III.
“We’re playing well right now,” Hiatt said. “The girls recognize their roles and we’re playing as a team.”
Ceres threatened to steal it late after Aimee Gunzenhauser (nine points) nailed two free throws with 48 seconds left to make it 40-38. She later drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing with nine seconds to go.
Manteca managed to stay within striking distance after going down by as much as eight, 14-6, early in the second quarter.
Ceres’ frontcourt combination of Jode Johnson and Jamie Beck was brilliant during that stretch, with Beck dishing it to Johnson in the paint from the high post for easy buckets on three consecutive possessions.
Despite getting outrebounded 26-9 in the first half, Manteca was down just 20-18 going into the break. Johnson scored 10 of her team-high 19 points in the second quarter, while Beck turned in 11 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
“In the first half we were outhustled,” Hiatt said. “We came out flat and didn’t show intensity. They’re a good team.
“Their Beck-Johnson duo is tough to defend. We practiced what they were going to do and they still beat us with it.  They’re a very well-coached team.”
Manteca captured its first lead at 22-20 two minutes into the second half when Davina Bennett laid it in off a nice feed from Washington. Bennett finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
The road only gets tougher for the Buffaloes, who host Weston Ranch, which previously handed them a 62-45 defeat, Thursday before heading to second-place Sonora next week and taking on rival East Union for the VOL finale.
“We’re going into a stretch where we have tough teams ahead of us, so we’re going to prepare one day at a time,” Hiatt said.