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Big games ahead for Manteca area hoops
Playoff, title implications begin to take shape
East Unions Shalane Jackson draws a foul during a nonleague contest with Modesto on Dec. 12. The Lancers face Sonora and defending Valley Oak League champion Manteca in a pivotal two-game stretch this week. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Things are about to get interesting for the high school boys and girls basketball teams in the area.

Tonight tips off a big week that culminates with blockbuster contests Friday, especially in the Valley Oak League.

The East Union (4-0, 14-2) and Manteca (4-0, 16-1) girls are on a collision course. They meet Friday at Manteca’s Winter Gymnasium, as East Union sophomore Tiare Tu’uga returns to reunite with her old mates. Last year, she helped the Buffaloes earned their first VOL title in 10 years.

But first, East Union must get past a Sonora team (2-2, 10-5) looking to get back on track after suffering blowout losses to Weston Ranch (3-1, 12-5) and Manteca, which takes on struggling Oakdale (0-4). Those games take place Wednesday.

Weston Ranch aims to keep up with the league leaders with young and dangerous Kimball (2-2, 12-5) visiting Wednesday and improving Sierra (1-3, 3-13) stopping by on Thursday.

The two Ripon schools will be heavily challenged tonight as they take undefeated league records to parochial powerhouses.

Ripon High (3-0, 12-4) heads to Modesto Christian (3-0, 12-4) — which is fresh off Saturday’s 82-38 drubbing of talented Weston Ranch — to challenge the reigning Trans-Valley League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV champion tonight. Then on Thursday, the Indians play host to upstart Riverbank (3-1, 11-4).

In the Southern League, Ripon Christian (4-0, 11-2) travels to Turlock Christian (4-0, 15-2).

The league races for the boys are also heating up.

Arguably the most anticipated game is Friday’s showdown between Sierra (4-0, 14-2) and Weston Ranch (3-1, 11-5) in Stockton. The Manteca Unified rivals have had some classic duels in recent seasons.

Last year, Weston Ranch went undefeated to capture the school’s third boys basketball title in its seventh varsity season but goes into the big week still trying to find its groove. The Cougars can’t afford to look beyond tonight’s game with Kimball (1-3, 8-9) in Tracy.

Sierra, meanwhile, is riding a 13-game winning streak and has beaten its first four league opponents by a 20.5-point margin. The Timberwolves aren’t planning for Friday just yet with scrappy Lathrop (2-2, 9-7) coming tonight. Lathrop plays host to Kimball on Friday.

It’s also a big week for in-town rivals East Union and Manteca, two teams that are battling to remain in the hunt. They will square off Friday at Dalben Center.

East Union (2-2, 10-6) has won two straight after dropping its first two in conference action, but tonight is a road test at Sonora (2-2, 9-6).

Manteca is coming off back-to-back defeats after stunning Weston Ranch 42-40 on Jan. 6. The Buffaloes head to Oakdale (1-3, 6-9) tonight.

The Ripon High boys (2-1, 8-9), like their female counterparts, have huge games with powerhouse Modesto Christian (3-0, 12-4) tonight and Riverbank (3-1, 15-1) on Friday.

Ripon Christian (4-0, 12-4) is cruising in the SL so far and should continue to do so tonight against visiting Turlock Christian (0-3, 2-12). The Knights could be in for a fight Friday at home against second-place Delhi (3-1, 11-6).