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Livingston uses pressure defense to get even with Manteca
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Austin Haro attempts a 3-pointer from the corner for Manteca High as Livingstons Quinn Newsom closes in late. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — If Manteca High’s boys basketball team was to play Livingston 10 times this season, chances are that all of those games would go down to the wire.

That was the case when they met for a second time in nonleague action on Wednesday in the consolation semifinals of the Tracy/West Winter Holiday Classic at Tracy High’s Swenson Gym.

Manteca led by four with 3 minutes to go, but Livingston scored nine straight points off four turnovers and held on to win, 53-51.  The Buffaloes (6-5) came out on top of a 62-59 overtime showdown when they last took on Livingston (7-6) on Dec. 8 in the 6th Annual Save Mart Classic in Atwater.

“We’re two evenly-matched teams,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “I think both teams give each other trouble — they have a tough time stopping us inside, and we have a tough time containing their quicker guards. They do a good job of making us turn the ball over and getting us out of our offense.”

Manteca trailed for the entire first half until Austin Haro (11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) converted a three-point play to put his squad up 29-28 with 2:34 left in the third quarter. It was nip-and-tuck from there.

The Buffaloes appeared prime to pull away for good midway through the fourth quarter when they staged a 6-0 run that had them up 44-40. Then in a span of 32 seconds, Livingston was ahead 46-40.

The Wolves’ half-court pressure defense forced three turnovers that led to easy fastbreak buckets, and the tide completely turned after they were awarded possession on a tie-up.

Asuncion was tagged with a technical foul for disputing the ball. Brian Perez — who led all scorers with 23 points — made one of two free throws, and Joseph Chavez stretched Livingston’s lead to 49-44 with a layup with 1:33 to go. Chavez later drained two free throws and scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

“Credit Livingston, they put a lot of pressure on us, caused havoc and we made mistakes,” Asuncion said.

Manteca didn’t go down without a fight. Michael Hatfield, who paced Manteca with 13 points and eight rebounds, sank four straight free throws, and Miguel Lopez’s put-back layup with 4.9 seconds remaining closed the Buffaloes in, 52-51.

Perez was fouled with 3.5 seconds left and he converted the second of two free throws to leave the door open for the Buffaloes, who were unable to get a shot off before the buzzer.

The loss sets up an 11th-place battle with Valley Oak League foe Lathrop across town at West High today starting at noon. It’s the final nonleague contest for both squads.

“Hopefully we can just keep improving and get better for league,” Asuncion said.