Leah Manuleleua put a positive spin on what she called a “frustrating” night for herself and the Manteca girls basketball team.
Kimball of Tracy continued its undefeated march Thursday at Winter Gym, blasting the Buffaloes 72-35 in a battle between two of the Valley Oak League’s top teams. The problem for Manteca (7-3 VOL, 14-8 overall), and everyone else in the league for that matter, is that the Jaguars (10-0, 23-0) are head and shoulders above the rest with their overall speed, length and depth.
“We were with them until we got into foul trouble,” said Manuleleua, who scored a team-high eight points despite limited playing time. “It’s really good to play against them, though. Seeing such good players makes you want to be better and it challenges you.”
Manteca’s time will come with junior starters Elizabeth Tolbert and Manuleleua returning next year alongside a talented core of sophomores, and its encounters with Kimball provides them a good learning experience. In the meantime, it is the Jaguars that the rest are chasing for a second straight season.
Sarah Nunes had 20 points and seven steals to lead Kimball, which forced 34 turnovers. Impressive freshman Raziya Potter added 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Isabella Lawrence, one of several four-year varsity players for Kimball, came off the bench and hit three straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Donwanae Anthony also fired nine points and contributed six rebounds and four steals. Allison Schmidt, the VOL’s reigning MVP, chipped in eight points and six assists.
Manteca held its own at the start despite committing 11 turnovers in the opening quarter. Manuleleua’s conventional three-point play gave the Buffaloes an 11-7 lead with 3:23 left before Kimball rallied for eight unanswered points and a 14-13 advantage heading into the second.
It was all Jaguars from there.
Loretta Kakala and Manuleleua both sat out most of the second quarter with two fouls, and Manueleleua picked up her third with 2:46 left in the half. The 6-foot-2 Kakala amassed 22 points, 19 rebounds and nine blocks the last time Manteca faced Kimball. She fouled out with 1:35 to go in the third with seven points and five boards.
The Buffaloes couldn’t get untracked with their two best scorers missing much of the action. Kimball erupted for 25 points in the second quarter, started the third on a 9-0 run and the rout was on.
“Loretta got into foul trouble early so that kind of set the tone,” Kimball coach Mike Granillo said. “When your big center and your forward get into foul trouble it puts a damper on things. Manteca is good. They’ll make the playoffs.”
Kimball 49, Manteca 48
Trailing by 10 to start the fourth quarter, the Buffaloes (7-3, 15-7) managed to take two leads with less than a minute left.
Sierra Leyba buried two free throws with 37 seconds remaining for a 46-45 Manteca advantage, and with 17 seconds to go J.J. Santos out the Buffs ahead for the last time with a jumper from the right wing. Katie Jones drilled a perimeter shot in the final seconds to win it for Kimball (8-2, 18-4).
Santos and Leyba led Manteca with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Jones topped all scorers with 21 points.
Kimball 49, Manteca 40
The Jaguars outscored host Manteca 16-8 in the final period to pull away.
Raiannon Genilla paced the Buffaloes with 13 points, while Koryn Menasco and Chandler Neima added eight apiece.