Manteca is defending its Valley Oak League title with, well, defense.
The Buffaloes stifled visiting Sierra on Thursday and led by as much as 12 before holding on for a 43-37 win. They’ve held opponents to an average of 36.5 points in four league games and remain a game back of VOL co-leaders Kimball and Lathrop.
“Our main focus is defense,” Manteca coach Ryan Bono said. “Our goal is to hold teams under 40, and so far this year in league we’ve done a very good job of that. We have a ways to go to get better, but they’ve bought in.”
Sarah Inderbitzin’s put-back with 2:48 left in the first quarter gave Manteca (3-1 VOL, 10-6 overall) a 7-5 lead and the Buffaloes never trailed from there. Selena Lopez buried a 3-pointer late in the half, helping them carry a 27-17 advantage into halftime.
Sierra (0-4, 7-10) didn’t go down easily thanks in large part to the efforts of 6-foot center Lindsey Walljasper, who amassed 19 points, 24 rebounds and two blocks.”
“The only thing that hurt us tonight was rebounding,” Bono said. “They did a great job of attacking the offensive boards with Walljasper inside.
The Timberwolves, though, struggled from the field. They were eventually able to navigate through the Buffaloes’ 3-2 zone in the second half and mounted a late charge led by freshman guard Jordan Hayter (eight points, four assists), who hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to close Sierra in, 42-37.
Sierra later had two open looks from behind the arc in one possession, but Raiann Prieto and Hayter both hit front iron before Jayda Jackson (eight points) came down with the clinching defensive rebound for Manteca.
“That was the thing I was proud of, we were able to read and react to what was going on on the floor,” Sierra coach Larissa Founts-Bergerson said. “We were getting shots up, they just weren’t falling. It’s frustrating, but what can you do? The girls battled.”
And the Timberwolves battled through early adversity after starting sophomore post Natalie Dias hobbled to the bench with a knee injury.
“We have our twin towers down there, but without her we miss her height, her intensity and she scraps,” Founts said. “Dolce (Cruz) and (Brittney) Spivey came in and contributed well. They tried to pick up (the slack) for her.”
Depth is what helped Manteca pull away.
The Buffaloes went cold in the second half, starting forward Rhiannon Genilla was slowed by foul trouble and Inderbitzin (six points, nine rebounds) did not play in the fourth quarter after injuring an ankle.
Sophomore Marissa Serrano, a transfer from St. Mary’s playing her fourth game for Manteca, gave her team a needed boost off the bench, nailing three 3s and finishing with 13 points. Her jumper from the right wing expanded the Buffs’ lead to 37-27 with 5:16 to go, and it ended a 7-minute field goal drought.
“Marissa had to sit out (the pre-league schedule per CIF transfer rules), so she’s been chomping at the bit,” Bono said. “She came in and did a great job shooting the ball, but on defense she actually played really well.
“We got 14 girls on the team and at any time someone can come in and help us out. Chandler (Nieman) did the same thing after Sarah injured her ankle and Rhi got into foul trouble. She stepped up, got some big rebounds and played good defense tonight.”