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Balanced Buffs trample Johnson
Verhoeven collects 19 points, 14 rebounds, 7 blocks
BBSK--Johnson-Manteca pic 1
Mantecas Matt Ender pulls up for a mid-range jumper over Izacc Pringle of visiting Hiram Johnson in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III opener at Winter Gym. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

Manteca is one step closer to achieving the Buffalo Slam after vanquishing visiting Hiram Johnson 75-46 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs on Wednesday.

The reigning Valley Oak League, Northern California and CIF State Division III champion has achieved much in the past calendar year. All that’s missing is the blue banner signifying a section title, one that has evaded these Buffaloes since the program claimed its only one in 1987. They lost to VOL rival Weston Ranch in the SJS Division III finals a year ago before mounting a historic run to the state crown.

To reach that goal, No. 3 Manteca (23-5) will need to continue playing unselfishly as it did Wednesday. Tydus Verhoeven surely left his mark, finishing with 19 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks. He was one of four Buffaloes to finish in double figures.

Manteca hosts No. 6 Rio Americano (16-11) on Friday.

“We’ve been talking about that for a long time with this group,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “It’s playoffs now. We told them you potentially have a handful of games left, and if you guys want to continue to play you have to continue to share the ball. They responded well today. They moved the ball around and our scoring was really balanced.”

Dwight Young drained four 3s and added 18 points, Gino Campiotti had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Matthew Ender contributed 10 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Khamali Muqueet paced the No. 14 Warriors (17-11) from Sacramento with 14 points.

Ender, the team’s starting point guard, rarely looks for his own shot. His role is to facilitate the offense and do all the other little things to help the team succeed. He carried the scoring load early on Wednesday, registering seven points in the first quarter as Manteca staked a 16-13 lead.

Ender converted a three-point play with 5:36 left in the second to expand the margin, 23-16. He didn’t attempt another shot for the rest of the night and finished 4 for 4 from the field.

“Coach Lewis said to drive the ball, go middle and there were going to be open buckets,” Ender said. “My teammates were giving me the open looks too because they were overplaying Dwight and Jorge (Cedano) because they’re our shooters. I had the open looks, I just had to knock them down.”

Manteca held a 31-23 halftime advantage, and Verhoeven settled into a groove after he was held to five points in the first half. He scored 10 in the third quarter alone, and the Buffaloes had big moments from their guards as they looked to ice the win early.

Campiotti and Cedano each had fastbreak buckets in an 18-second span, causing Johnson to burn a timeout with 5:20 left in the period and Manteca surging to a 39-26 lead. Young later hit two 3s, and the Buffs were well ahead 53-34 going into the fourth.

Manteca has had a tendency to give up double-digit leads to good teams this season. Lewis made sure to remind his team of this during the timeout. 

“We talked about being in this position a lot but letting teams back in,” he said. “We made sure we hit that point. It has been a focus of ours and it was really good to see us pull away in the situation.”