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Buffs hang with Sonora despite size disadvantage
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The Manteca High boys varsity basketball team came out with a hard-fought effort against Sonora on Friday.

But the Wildcats prevailed in the Valley Oak League affair, edging the Buffaloes at Winter Gymnasium, 59-56.

“For us, every (VOL) game has been hard fought,” said Sonora coach Rick Francis.

Manteca (4-6, 7-14) was coming off an embarrassing loss to Kimball.

“I was pleased with our intensity and effort,” Buffaloes coach Dave Asuncion said. “We played hard on defense and battled for every rebound.”

Sonora (7-3, 12-9) relied on its height advantage consisting of 6-foot-6 Mark Relei and 6-foot-4 Alex Kiriluk doing most of the damage. Both helped in giving the Wildcats a 32-17 rebounding edge over the Buffaloes.

Offensively, Kiriluk had a game-high 28 while Relei added 12.

Midway through the fourth, the Buffaloes held a 56-52 lead, countering Sonora’s size by attacking from the outside.

All told, they canned 12 from 3-point range.

Down the stretch, however, the Wildcats were the ones finding the range. Kiriluk and Nick Mays delivered on consecutive treys to put their team ahead.

The Buffaloes were also betrayed by turnovers.

In the final minute, they came up with a steal – Tim Baker caused the turnover with Burrows gaining possession – while trailing by two only to turn the ball over on the offensive end of the court.

Manteca quickly fouled Kiriluk, who connected on one of his two free throws.

The Buffaloes regained possession but were unable to get a clean shot off in the end.

Culpepper, E.J. Godfrey and Ben Odell carried most of the scoring load for Manteca. Culpepper and Godfrey both had 16 while Odell added 13.

Odell did most of his scoring in the second half, opening the period with spot-up 3, and delivering on drive to the basket.

He canned two more treys in the quarter.

“B.J. was open and he hit his shots,” Asuncion said.

Baker and Godfrey gave Manteca the early lead only to have the Wildcats come right back. Baker and Matt Burrows delivered back-to-back 3s including one at the buzzer.

In the second, Sonora went on a 14-5 run. But Manteca withstood the attack, tying the game at the intermission thanks to Culpepper’s buzzer-beating 3.

With the Wildcats defense keying on Godfrey, Odell was often left open on the wind. He made Sonora pay with an 11-point effort in the third.