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Big week ahead for Valley Oak League

With a 14-game regular-season schedule, it’s never too early to start talking championship and playoff implications.

The Valley Oak League is riddled with them in Week 2, and all four Manteca Unified schools are involved.

The game of all games takes place Friday at Sierra High, where Manteca visits for a showdown between two of the league’s remaining 2-0 teams.

The host Timberwolves (10-4) are red hot. Their current eight-game winning streak started early in the preseason, and six of those victories were by double digits. Manteca (13-2), meanwhile, has won 11 of its last 12.

All eyes will be on Sierra’s Christian Williams (26.8 ppg) and Manteca sophomore Kiwi Gardner (18.2 ppg), but both teams have other players capable of taking over.

But Sierra coach Scott Thomason isn’t thinking of ways to stop Gardner and the high-scoring Buffaloes just yet. His attention on Wednesday’s road game at Oakdale (1-12). Manteca will host 5-9 Ceres.

“The only game I know about is Wednesday,” Thomason said. “Manteca is a good team and that’s going to be a battle, but every game for us is going to be a battle.

“On Wednesday we have to come out with a lot of intensity and a lot of passion. Every team we play in league has a lot of good players, so we have to be ready to play.”

Weston Ranch (7-7) is the other undefeated team in league, and the Cougars will try and keep pace Wednesday when 6-foot-5 forward Brenden Evans and his Sonora Wildcats (1-1, 8-5) visit to set up a classic tall-against-small matchup.

On the girls side, Weston Ranch has to deal with the conference’s two defending co-champions this week.

First, the Cougars head to Sonora tonight for a key matchup between 1-1 teams that took tough losses last week.

Weston Ranch (11-4) opened with a stunning 39-28 loss at Oakdale (2-0, 7-5), while Sonora (6-7) was beaten by East Union 49-31 last Thursday.

And it won’t get any easier for the Cougars, who play host to undefeated East Union (15-0) Thursday.

“For us having so many youngsters, our whole approach is to take everything one day at a time,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer said. “We’re not looking three or four games in advance, but it’s a big week for us — no doubt.”

It’s also a huge week for Manteca (1-1, 8-7) and Sierra (0-2, 5-6). The former can’t look past Ceres (1-1, 5-9) tonight, while the latter is trying to avoid its third straight defeat with first-place Oakdale on slate.

Then on Thursday, the crosstown rivals meet at Manteca’s Winter Gym for a rematch of their Stagg Tournament game won by Sierra 54-51 on Dec. 12.

Third-year Sierra coach Issac Gutierrez is the father of Manteca freshman Jaqi Gutierrez, and uncle of Manteca senior Morgan Salsedo.