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Underclassmen help Manteca shake off VOL loss
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Sierra standout Alysia Atkins gets the ball stripped away by Manteca High’s Brianna Bell while trying to finish on a fastbreak at Winter Gym Tuesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
Save for the wrap on Sharon Washington’s right wrist, Manteca High’s girls basketball team showed no ill effects from its recent loss to crosstown rival East Union.

The Buffaloes took it out on Sierra, the third school in town, Tuesday at Winter Gym.

While Washington — who finished with seven points — was limited by an injured thumb on her shooting hand, the Buffaloes needed little production from their best player in a 64-29 victory that keeps them in the Valley Oak League lead with Weston Ranch.

Two underclassmen led the way (6-1, 15-3). Sophomore guard Mikayla Hasal had one of her best all-around performances of the season, posting a game-high 16 points to go with six steals and five assists.

Freshman forward Tia Tuuga added 15 points and nine rebounds.

Manteca broke away in the middle of the second quarter, staging a 12-0 run for a 30-13 lead. The Buffaloes’ full-court press continued to bother Sierra in the second half when it scored just 10 points. Reserves Jaqi Gutierrez (8 points) and Brianna Bell (6 points) boosted the Buffs for key stretches in the middle quarters.

“They’re a quick team, a very good team — there’s no doubt about that,” Sierra coach Steve Unterholzner said. “We let them play a faster game than we wanted it to be.”

The Timberwolves (3-4, 11-7) had 32 turnovers. They were led by Alysia Atkins’ 14 points, and Jordan Johnson pulled down 13 rebounds but was held to four points.

“We know they have some really talented post players, so we wanted to make it difficult for them to get the ball by putting pressure on their guards,” Manteca coach Andrea Hiatt said.

Also on Tuesday, Weston Ranch upended East Union, the four-time defending champion, 64-50 to break up a three-way share for first.

Manteca heads to Weston Ranch Thursday to open the second half of conference play. Manteca won their first head-to-head meeting 63-53 on Jan. 6.

Knowing how much is on the line Thursday, Hiatt didn’t want her players to forget about the team in front of them. Sierra had played East Union and Weston Ranch competitively in losses.

“Sierra’s a scary team,” Hiatt said. “They are very underestimated, and they are capable of winning the big games. We were very focused on not only winning this game, but executing.”

As for Thursday?

“It’s a huge game. It’s going to set the tone for the rest of the season,” Hiatt said. “One of us is going to walk away at the top and the other one is going to shuffle back into the mix. I know that (Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer) is going to have his team ready.”

Things don’t get any easier for Sierra either. The Timberwolves are in the middle of a rough four-game stretch that continues Thursday at East Union, then Sonora at home next week.

To contact Jonamar Jacinto, e-mail, or call (209) 249-3538.