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Buffs drop another spot despite winning out
Ripon Christian rolls into Division V playoffs with second seed
Senior Ernie Pimentel, left, and the Manteca Buffaloes will likely host their final game of the year Wednesday when they take on 10th-seeed Placer to open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. Will Ward, right, and Sierra heads to Del Oro. - photo by Bulletin file photo
A 13-game-winning streak to end the regular season wasn’t good enough for Manteca High’s boys basketball team to get a favorable seed for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

The two-time defending Valley Oak League champion is seeded seventh and will host No. 10 Placer Wednesday for the opener. Sierra also qualified for the Division III playoffs despite its regular-season ending loss to Weston Ranch, getting in as the 14th seed.

Sonora, also of the VOL, drew the 15th seed and will take on powerhouse Vista del Lago, Manteca’s potential second-round opponent should it get past Placer.

Top-seeded Sacramento is looking to make its sixth straight Division III finals appearances after winning three since 2005.

Just two weeks ago, Manteca was fifth in the section’s playoff power ratings but dropped to No. 6 a week later.

The Buffaloes (22-5) hope that their final four games, two of which were against postseason qualifiers Sierra and Sonora, have them prepared.

Placer (16-11) won’t be an easy out.

The Hillmen proved to be a team to be reckoned with on Jan. 26 when they dealt the only Pioneer Valley League loss to Colfax, 73-68. Colfax is the top-seeded team in the Division IV bracket.

Placer is making its first playoff appearance in three years, while Manteca ended a 10-year drought last season.

While Manteca has looked to guards Kiwi Gardner (24 ppg) and Ernie Pimentel (15.1 ppg) to handle load offensively, Placer has several players who could lead the team on any night, namely double-double threats Josh Klem, a 6-foot-3 guard, and James Taber, a 6-4 forward.

Manteca will also have to spread its defensive focus out to 3-point specialist Josh Turney and Darren Centi on the perimeter.

Third-seeded Del Oro (18-8) and No. 14 Sierra (18-9) have nearly identical records, but the Golden Eagles of Loomis played a much tougher schedule that includes the Sierra Foothill League. The SFL has three teams in the Division II playoffs, and one of conference champion Woodcreek’s losses was to Del Oro.

The Golden Eagles boast two prolific scorers in 6-1 junior Aaron Hendricks (18.4 ppg) and 6-3 senior Spencer Butterfield (16.1 ppg). They are also blessed with height, with 6-8 Kyle Russell and 6-5 John Root anchoring the post.

Del Oro has been the center of controversy all year with eligibility issues surrounding 6-7 transfer Remi Barry, a Frenchman who transferred from a private school in Florida. The California Interscholastic Federation ruled him ineligible, stating that his transfer was “athletically motivated.”

Division IV
No area team has a tougher first-round matchup than No. 16 Ripon (13-14), which will also take the longest road trip.

Waiting for the Indians are the top-seeded Colfax Falcons (23-4), the champions of the Division III-dominated PVL.

Colfax will give the vertically-challenged Indians trouble with 6-9 center Ryan Salmonson (13 ppg), 6-3 guard Justin Witt (12.2 ppg) and 6-3, 215-pound forward Joey Jergo.

Colfax will look to challenge powerhouse Modesto Christian, which has won 10 straight section titles in three different divisions.

Division V
Ripon Christian (19-6), seeded at No. 2 in Division V, has the best chance of all area teams at winning a section championship.

The Knights should get little resistance from Stone Ridge Christian (12-9) of Merced.

Ripon Christian figures to be battle tested coming from the competitive Trans Valley League, which has three teams in the Division IV playoffs.

While Stone Ridge’s regular-season schedule comprised of all Division-V schools, RC played and beat Division I Chavez and twice defeated Calaveras, the second-seeded squad in Division IV, in non-league play. Ripon Christian also has a 64-43 win over the top-seeded team in Division V, Victory Christian, under its belt.

Stone Ridge will have a huge size disadvantage against RC’s 6-8 Tyler Goslinga but will counter with guard Ryan Fletcher, who averages 18.9 and 8.3 rebounds per game.