It didn’t come easily for the Manteca, but the Buffaloes finally got the better of Weston Ranch in this rematch of the 2016 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title game Thursday at Winter Gym with a 69-61 win.
The reigning Valley Oak League champion Cougars won their four previous meetings with the Buffs, who went on to claim the CIF State Division III crown last year. Weston Ranch has since graduated its entire starting five, and the new-look lineup featuring four underclassmen is out to prove it can compete now.
“Even though we’re young we don’t think our age means anything,” sophomore guard Makhi Turner said. “Anybody can play with anybody else on any given day. Young or not, we’re going to give it our all.”
Turner led the Cougars (0-2 VOL, 7-7 overall) with 20 points, while freshman point guard Gavin Wilburn racked up 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. Fellow freshman Titus Haley scored all 10 of his points during Weston Ranch’s second-half charge when it shrank an 18-point second-quarter deficit to down to four on three occasions.
Gino Campiotti anchored Manteca (2-0, 9-5) with 22 points and nine rebounds. Dwight Young and Jorge Cedano poured in 14 points apiece, and they each hit two free throws in the final minute to put Weston Ranch away for good. Young’s 3-pointer gave the Buffaloes a 65-52 advantage with 3:01 to go, but they were held without a field goal the rest of the way.
Tydus Verhoeven added 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
“This is the third or fourth game where we should have pulled away but we just can’t,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “We lose focus and we start to mentally break down. When we get a lead and go on a run we decide to start taking bad shots and making bad passes.
“We’re figuring out ways to win, we’re just not figuring out ways to win comfortably when we’re in position to do it. You have to give them credit; they battled and they didn’t go away. They have a young team that’s motivated.”
Manteca dominated with defense in the early going to stake a 36-21 halftime cushion. Turner’s layup with 4.5 seconds remaining represented Weston Ranch’s only field goal for the quarter.
The Cougars battled back in the third, as Turner, Wilburn and Haley combined for four 3-pointers. Raul Melgarejo (six points, eight rebounds), a sophomore, closed them in 46-42 with a floater. Wilburn cut to four again, 52-48, with a bucket early in the fourth, but Manteca responded with a 10-2 run.
“In league so far we’ve played six great quarters and two bad ones, and the two bad ones were really bad,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan said. “In that second quarter, a lot of it had to do with Manteca; they’re a great team that causes problems.
“The only way they’re going to get better on the court is by playing, so you have to live with some of that stuff. They’ll have to develop, learn and get better.”
Central Catholic 67,
The Spartans (0-2, 8-7) started and ended strong against visiting Central Catholic but were outscored 39-13 in the middle quarters.
Junior Ballard registered 24 points and six assists, but Lathrop shot 34 percent from the field. Anthony Blase held his own in the post, finishing with eight rebounds, six blocks and four steals. Joshua Hamilton scored 19 points for the Raiders (2-0, 11-2), while Amrit Dhaliwal chipped in 10.
Weston Ranch 57,
Elijah Bridges fired a game-high 20 points to lift the Cougars to victory. Christian Cuevas contributed 10.
Dylan Gross and Tarjot Singh scored 12 and 11 for Manteca, respectively.
Weston Ranch 60
The Buffaloes (2-0, 9-3) held on for their ninth straight win after the Cougars missed a chance to send it into overtime with less than a second remaining. Weston Ranch was awarded three free throws after a player was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer.
Jordan Burciaga amassed 21 points to lead Manteca, Spencer Briscoe had 18 and Garren Genilla nine. Khali Malbrough and Curtis Green paced Weston Ranch with 15 and 14 points, respectively.