SONORA – With just under two minutes to play, Gerry Cooper calmly sank a pair of free throws to push the Manteca High varsity basketball team up by two and the Buffaloes would hold off Sonora High for a 68-64 Valley Oak League win Wednesday.
Manteca ( 14-1 VOL, 21-5 overall) got off to a lightning start as senior playmaker Ernie Pimentel got going with 12 first quarter points on his way to a team-high 20 point performance.
“They started in a zone and we were able to do a good job interior wise passing the ball,” Manteca head coach Dave Asuncion said. “We jumped out quick, grabbing that first quarter lead and really were able to get ourselves the start that we wanted.”
Sonora (10-5, 16-10) fought back for its raucous crowd, outscoring Manteca 22-15 in the second quarter. With the game hanging in the balance, Manteca found a way to build some separation by taking advantage of nearly every late opportunity from the foul line.
“They took their first lead in that third period and it seemed like it was just back-and-forth from there,” Asuncion said. “Cooper made a pair of big free throws in the fourth to put us up by two.
“Those were two big shots for us in Sonora.”
Sonora wouldn’t go quietly, taking advantage of a technical foul, by sinking two free throws and then cutting a six-point Manteca lead to two with a deep 3-pointer. After another Sonora foul Pimentel found his way to the line for his 19th and 20th points, as well as the Buffaloes’ 12th straight league win.
Manteca currently sits in the No. 6 seed of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings, leaving its first postseason contest just days away. Sonora with a VOL road victory will certainly hold value for the Buffaloes over their postseason run.
“We are gearing up for playoffs, so this was a good atmosphere for us,” Asuncion said. “If we can get past the first round we’ll likely be on the road in the nest round in a hostile environment.
“This was a good place to go up and get a victory against a solid basketball team.”
Manteca junior Kiwi Gardner closed out the contest with 17, while teammate Taylor Hasal added 13. Cooper found his way into double-digits with 10. Sonora was led by Zach Gorgas’ game-high 22 points.
Oakdale 43, Weston Ranch 38
OAKDALE – The Cougars needed a strong performance against Oakdale to set up a season-ending showdown with Sierra High, but things didn’t work out as the Cougars were upset by the Mustangs 43-38 Wednesday.
Oakdale used a balanced scoring attack and a deliberate offensive mentality to throw Weston Ranch enough of a new look to land the win. The Cougars (10-5, 14-12) held a one-point halftime lead, before getting outscored 15-9 in the third period.
“I felt that our team was ready to play tonight,” Weston Ranch head coach Ryan Bono said. “Pre-game watching them; on the van ride out, I felt they were ready to go.
“Oakdale just did a good job of stalling the tempo and out-executing us tonight.”
The Cougars handled Oakdale with ease in their first matchup, blasting the Mustangs 66-48 back on Jan. 23.
Weston Ranch was led by Ronnie Collins’ 12 points and 10 boards, while teammate Jason Steele chipped in with seven points, eight rebounds. The
Cougars will need some outside assistance if they plan on continuing their season beyond Friday’s meeting with the Timberwolves.
Sierra 55, Central Valley 44
The Timberwolves (11-4, 18-8) raced out to a quick 17-9 first quarter lead on their way to a VOL win Wednesday.
Trevor Nogueira led Sierra with 16 points, while Will Ward chipped in with 10 points and 12 boards.
Sierra fought off a Central Valley comeback, burying the Hawks with defensive pressure, holding them to just two third quarter baskets.
“We just picked up the pressure a little bit,” Sierra head coach Scott Thomason said. “We had a terrible second quarter. We got open shots we just couldn’t hit any of them.
“We were a little sloppy in our execution and we kind of let them hang around.”
The Timberwolves will try and close out the season with a road win as they travel to Stockton to take on the Weston Ranch Cougars Friday.