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BASKETBALL: Manteca hangs with top-seeded Vanden in semifinal defeat
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Manteca gave the top-seeded team all it could handle for three quarters of its Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal on Wednesday, but Vanden’s overall size was too much for the Buffaloes to overcome.

The Vikings took advantage down the stretch after Manteca 6-foot-8 center Mehtaj Mehrok fouled out, rolling to a 58-48 victory at Solano Community College.

Without Mehrok, who picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, No. 4 Manteca (20-11) had no player taller than 6-2 to match up with Vanden’s imposing frontline that includes 6-7 standout forward Takai Emerson-Hardy. Hardy was held to 10 points, but 6-5 sophomore guard Tyler Thompson burned the Buffs for 23 points and five 3s.

“Vanden had six offensive boards for 12 points in the second half, which killed us,” Manteca coach Jason Hitt said. “There was a size factor when Taj fouled out, and they hit a couple big 3s down the stretch.”

Justice Chase scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the second half for Manteca. Ryan Inderbitzin added 13 points, and Noah Lyons had 10.

The Buffaloes stormed out to a 14-10 lead and trailed 25-23 at halftime. It remained a two-point game going into the fourth, with Vanden ahead 39-37.

The Vikings (18-12) take on No. 6 Central Catholic in the championship Saturday at Golden 1 Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. Central Catholic, which placed fourth in the Valley Oak League, edged out No. 7 Burbank 62-61 in the other semifinal.

Manteca next competes in the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal Regional. Seedings will be announced Sunday.

“Our boys played hard, I was proud of our effort,” Hitt said. “They fought to the end.”