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Manteca blows it open with big 2nd-half flurries
Manteca Highs Selena Lopez (21) dribbles past Central Catholic defender Danielle Friedrich (44) during Thursdays varsity game at the Mark Gallo Health and Fitness Center in Modesto. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

MODESTO — Manteca was on the brink of breaking it open Thursday against Central Catholic, leading 27-16 with 2:30 to go in the second quarter.

Then, as coach Ryan Bono put it, “We went brain dead.”

The Valley Oak League-leading Buffaloes eventually came alive, stampeding past the Raiders with 13 unanswered points during a torrid a 2-minute blitz in the third quarter on their way to a 65-41 drubbing.

Central Catholic (5-3, 14-6 overall) rallied for 10 straight points at the end of the second quarter to close in 27-26, and fourth-year standout Danielle Friedrich gave the Raiders the lead early in the third with a turnaround jumper in traffic.

Loretta Kakala and the Buffaloes (8-0, 11-9) seized control from there and put the finishing touches on one of their most impressive wins of the season. Bono said the McDonald’s All-American was a game-time decision after she turned an ankle at Oakdale on Tuesday. Kakala spearheaded the balanced Buffs with 13 points and 11 rebounds and sat out the entire fourth quarter thanks to a comfortable 52-31 lead.

“It was nice to be able to rest her for that fourth quarter,” Bono said. “I took her out at the end of the third and told her to be ready to go back in the fourth just in case, but once again our bench came in and did an outstanding job for us. 

“It was a great team effort by us. Yes, we have a McDonald’s All-American and she’s a heck of a ballplayer, but our bench and everybody else does a pretty good job, too.”

Kakala anchored the third-quarter surge, tallying nine points, five boards and three steals. The 13-0 run was capped by two technical free throws from Malia Parangan (nine points) after Central Catholic was penalized for having six players on the court.

Jaci Nguyen ended the scoring drought for the Raiders on their next possession, but Manteca just kept on coming. Reserve forward Chandler Nieman even got in on the action, scoring the Buffaloes’ final four points of the period with a put-back off her own miss and a buzzer-beating transition layup. Manteca continued to pile it on in the fourth, and Selena Lopez (seven points) topped off the back-breaking 16-0 spurt with a 3-pointer in the opening minute.

Syd’nee Fryer contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds, Kacy Bolding added eight points and seven boards off the bench, and 11 different Buffaloes scored. A Fryer bucket gave Manteca its largest lead at 63-33 with 5:41 remaining, and the rest of the starters joined Kakala on the bench shortly thereafter.

“We needed the rest,” Kakala said. “We have a big week coming, so we got to get all our players in today and it was good to see them on the court.”

The Buffs won decisively against a team that recently knocked off two VOL contenders in Kimball and East Union. They’re expecting two tough contests next week against Lathrop and Kimball.

Friedrich finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds and five steals for Central Catholic but was held to just four points in the second half. Alexandria Candelaro had 11 points and four steals, and Hannah Heath scored all 10 of her points in the first half.

The Raiders were ice cold from the perimeter throughout, relying mostly on second-chance opportunities and fastbreak layups to get their points. They forced 18 turnovers in the first half while coming down with 17 rebounds off the offensive glass. Manteca took better care of the ball over the final two quarters and ended up outrebounding Central, 54-47.

“That was the biggest thing, defense and rebounds,” Bono said. “That’s going to win you ballgames.”