After three quarters locked in a slugfest with host Manteca on Saturday, Albany needed one more weapon in the final period to advance in the CIF State Division III Northern California basketball playoffs – a fire extinguisher.
But none was to be found as the Cougars were helpless to stop Buffaloes junior Dwight Young when he caught fire in front of the highly partisan Winter Gymnasium crowd for 18 fourth-quarter points – the final 18 Manteca points of the game – to lead the Buffaloes to a 59-52 NorCal quarterfinal win.
After enjoying a 10-point lead at halftime, Manteca (26-6) stumbled when Kenny Wooten left the game with three fouls early in the third quarter and Albany (25-7) caught fire itself, closing the period on a 7-2 run to remove the deficit and tie the game at 37-37.
When the Cougars took the lead at 42-41 midway through the fourth quarter, Young answered when he drained a 3-pointer with 3:40 left in the game for his first points since the opening period. This began his fourth-quarter blitz and a 7-2 run for him. The Buffaloes – or in this case Young – expanded the lead to as much as 11 before the Cougars scored some meaningless baskets late.
“He (Young) is capable of it,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “He can shoot the ball and he is a darned good free-throw shooter. We want the ball in his hands in end-game situations. He sealed the deal – he seals the deal for us all the time.”
Young earned high-point honors with 21, including a fourth quarter that saw three 3-pointers and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
“We were struggling and I knew I could hit some big shots,” Young said. “I wanted to help us get the win so we could keep playing.”
One of the reasons Young was able to get those late points was the collapsing of the Albany defense on Buffaloes big men Wooten, Anand Hundal and Tydus Verhoeven. The Cougars defensive strategy was to smother Manteca underneath, and for whatever reason Albany’s extremely physical play was overlooked by the three-man officiating crew. But that strategy backfired in the final 3:40 of the game when the Manteca bigs were able to repeatedly find Young.
“I have seen as physical a game as this one but more fouls were called in that game,” Lewis said. “They were much smaller than us so you anticipate a smaller team being able to get away with a little bit more.
“They got away with quite a bit more. Besides a couple of reactions, for the most part we kept our composure. But it is NorCals, they are going to let us play a little bit, they are not going to try and dictate the game.”
Wooten dominated the game for Manteca before his third-quarter hiatus. The Buffaloes senior had a double-double in the first half with 10 points and 10 rebounds, finishing with 12 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and an assist.
His assist and a resounding block came down the stretch, helping keep the Cougars out of range.
“It was a tough one,” Wooten said. “They were physical. We had to go out and match their intensity.
“It was one of the most physical games I have played and we tried to maintain our composure. The calls weren’t always great but we had to just keep on going and fighting and we ended up with the win.”
Hundal had eight points, seven rebounds and three assists and he too had a big assist down the stretch.
“We started off a little rough,” Hundal said. “They were hitting doubles and triples and we had to adjust to it.
“We just kept going and we knew we were going to end up in a late-game situation so we just kept grinding.”
Verhoeven also had 10 first-half points, finishing with 14 points, five rebonds and two steals.
“It’s NorCals,” Verhoeven said. “Everyone is good now. Every game you have to go with the same intensity. We got a little lead but they fired back because they didn’t want their season to end. We were able to hit some shots at the end.
“It was a battle. They were undersized so they were going to hit you all the time. When they are undersized you have to muscle a lot. We adjusted late in the game so we got the W.”
The up-tempo Albany defense baffled the Buffaloes throughout the game with Manteca turning the ball over 17 times. But the Buffaloes capitalized on a byproduct of aggressive defense – free throws – converting 19 of 22 from the charity stripe. In addition to Young’s stellar 9-of-10 effort Wooten was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
One thing physical play could not do for the Cougars was take away the Manteca height advantage. The Buffaloes clobbered Albany on the boards 32-11.
Josh Friedkin had 17 points and Jayson Kamuri 12 for the Cougars.
Due to the small size of Winter Gym, the Manteca will have to travel across town to East Union’s Dalben Center to host Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco in a semifinal contest Tuesday at 7 p.m.