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Buffs dominate post in 1st-round win over Lathrop
East Union eliminated by Burbank; Ripon moves on via forfeiture
Lathrop-Manteca boys basketball
Manteca’s Justice Chase manages to get his shot off at the rim beyond the reach of Lathrop center Jaelin Butler. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Manteca had its way in the post against No. 13 Lathrop on Friday, winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III opener, 58-42.

The fourth-seeded Buffaloes (19-10) were anchored by double-double efforts from Justice Chase and Ryan Inderbitzin, and 6-foot-8 center Mehtaj Mehrok had nine blocks. The trio was able to neutralize Lathrop’s long and active bigs in the paint, especially in the first half. Manteca allowed just five points in the second quarter to stake a 32-17 halftime lead and finished the game with a 39-29 advantage on rebounds.

“It’s playoff basketball, so we did what we had to do,” Inderbitzin said. “We put in the hard work and not let their players get the rebounds they normally get. We had to contain them.”

Chase led the charge with 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Inderbitzin had 18 and 11. At 6-0 and 6-2, respectively, the two seniors managed to outwork the Spartans in the paint and were able to get many of their buckets with crafty finishes and put-back layups.

Sophomore forward Izaias White registered 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for Lathrop (15-12), scoring 12 of those points in the second half. Samuel Steward added 11 points, and Camryn Hayes hit three 3s for his nine points. Center Jaelin Butler collected 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals but was limited to three points.

Manteca effectively navigated through Lathrop’s zone defense over the first two quarters and had just one turnover in that stretch.

“Before the game we went over what they do with the 3-2 zone and put in a little play for it,” Chase said. “We just wanted to get the ball in the middle because it was so open, and we just had to follow the game plan. I was just being patient on offense and crashed the boards.”

Chase takes pride in his defense and doesn’t back down against taller opponents. It helps having a 6-8 rim protector lurking in the paint.

“It’s very helpful, because they have some big dudes,” Chase said in reference to Mehrok. “If we didn’t have him, it probably would be a much closer game. He had a lot of contests and they stopped going to the middle as much because he’s super tall in there. He’s like a tree.”

Lathrop didn’t go away quietly.

The Western Athletic Conference co-champion went on an 11-2 run in the third quarter to close in, 38-31. The burst was capped by White’s coast-to-coast layup after he intercepted a careless pass on the defensive end. The Spartans were able to force eight turnovers in the second half. 

“In the first half, we stuck to the game plan, everybody rebounded well, defended well and took good shots,” Manteca coach Jason Hitt said. “In the second half, they definitely came out with more urgency. I always tell my guys, the first two minutes of the second half we have to keep playing basketball.

“Just had bad turnovers. My guys aren’t used to being patient with the basketball and having a lead. That’s something we definitely have to get better at, is controlling the tempo. When we ran offense, we scored almost every single time. Whenever we wanted to go quick, it was a tipped ball or a turnover.”

The Buffs eventually regained their form from earlier in the contest, effectively attacking the hoop for easy buckets on a 10-2 flurry. Hayes’ 3-pointer with 4:29 was the final field goal of the game for Lathrop, which was held to a made free throw the rest of the way.

Second-year Lathrop coach Charles Roth is encouraged by the experience gained for his young players. He started just one senior Friday and expects his best player, Ahmad Jacquet, to be fully recovered from ACL and MCL injuries by the time the team starts preparing for next season.

“It’s big for us to be co-league champs with a young squad,” Roth said. “We’re losing three seniors, but our No. 1 player from last year is coming back. Adding him to the mix just opens up a lot of other stuff for us.”

Meanwhile, the 2021-22 continues for the Buffaloes, and they’ll have a rubber match with Valley Oak League rival Kimball. They split their two league games that were decided by a total of five points. The No. 5 Jaguars (20-8) held off No. 12 Mountain House 84-79 and visits Manteca’s Winter Gym for the quarterfinal next Monday.

“Kimball is another beast,” Hitt said. “They have a lot of bigs we have to cover.”


Burbank 71, East Union 53

The 10th-seeded Lancers (17-12) matched No. 7 Burbank (18-8) blow-for-blow in the early going but could not recover from a 21-3 first-half flurry.

“They pressured us and probably forced about 25 turnovers tonight,” EU coach Charles Legan said. “We had a bad stretch and just had to fight and climb back into it the rest of the way.”

East Union trailed 39-23 at halftime and were able to cut the deficit to nine on three occasions. Senior forward Bryan Howe paced the Lancers with 17 points, Dylan Lee contributed 16 and Anthony Sy had 11.

The Titans of Sacramento were powered by the senior backcourt tandem of Omari Nesbit and Isiah Griffin, who poured in 24 and 20 points, respectively. They head to No. 2 El Camino on Monday.

“I’m proud of the boys for ending the nine-year (playoff) drought,” Legan said. “(The loss) had nothing to do with effort. They gave all they had this year and hopefully we can continue to build off of this for the future.”


Division IV

Ripon def. Foothill

The No. 7 Indians (16-13) got a pass to the quarterfinal round, as COVID-19 cases forced No. 10 Foothill (10-11) of Sacramento to forfeit. Ripon was informed of the cancellation on Thursday.

Ripon travels to San Andreas next Monday to face second-seeded Calaveras (23-7), which drubbed San Juan 74-52 in the first round.