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Buffaloes win ugly against Oakdale
Gutierrezs free throws help Manteca get needed victory
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Manteca High’s Taylor Hasal floats a shot over Oakdale defender Vince Thompson during a pivotal Valley Oak League contest at Winter Gym Wednesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
What started out as a slow-paced, uneventful boys basketball game ended up being decided by a free-throw shooting contest.

A Mona Lisa this was not.

Fourteen free throws were attempted in the final 1 minute, 25 seconds of Manteca High’s Valley Oak League engagement with visiting Oakdale Wednesday.

Only five of them were made, most of them by the host Buffaloes, who took the lead with 6:13 left in the opening period and never trailed since while holding on to win, 43-38.

“It was an ugly game,” Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields said. “It wasn’t like it was a huge defensive battle; it was just an ugly game.”

It was at its ugliest in crunch time, with both teams committing unforced turnovers and missing easy shots.

Oakdale (1-4, 10-8 overall) had two opportunities to tie it within the final minute: Center Jacob Martinez — who had 13 points and six rebounds to lead the Mustangs — missed one of two free throws with 47.3 seconds remaining to keep Manteca ahead, 39-38, then Daniel Linder missed both of his attempts from the stripe with 19.5 seconds left and the Buffaloes again holding onto the lead at 40-38.

“We couldn’t put the ball in the basket; it’s as easy as that,” Fields said. “We had missed free throws, missed layups (and) missed open jumpers. It’s not like we’re throwing away opportunities (with turnovers), but the ones we’re getting we’re not taking advantage of them.”

Manteca guard Rigo Gutierrez (11 points, 7 rebounds) put it out of reach by burying four of six free throws.

“I got up there and just thought, ‘I’ve gotta make these,’” he said. “I had pressure on me and did what I had to do.”

Manteca (3-2, 6-10) opened the fourth with a 7-0 run sparked by Taylor Hasal’s 3-pointer and capped by a wing jumper and two free throws from Gutierrez. The Buffaloes held a 34-26 lead, the game’s largest. Vince Thompson answered with a 3-pointer to get Oakdale back in it with 5:34 to go.

Hasal and Thompson both finished with 10 points.

EJ Godfrey got the better of Martinez in a battle between two of the league’s most skilled post players, finishing with 17 points.

Godfrey also showed off his shooting touch, nailing two 3-pointers in the first half. Matt Mueller contributed seven rebounds for Manteca.

The victory puts Manteca in a three-way tie for third place with Sonora and East Union. Sonora already has narrow wins over Manteca and East Union, which meet Friday at Winter Gym.

 “We need every win we can get in league,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “We just want to get some confidence right now.”