AMERICAN CANYON – How about that second half?
Following 12 lead changes and five ties, Manteca led Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland by a point at halftime Saturday night in the Division III CIF Northern California Regional Championship Game at American Canyon High School. There would be no more lead changes or ties in the second half.
The Buffaloes blitzed out of the locker room on a 5-0 run and never looked back, holding the Dragons to six third-quarter points and muffling Bishop O’Dowd’s second-half shooting percentage to an abysmal 25 percent on the way to a resounding 70-45 Manteca win and a berth in the Division III State Championship Game on Thursday at Sleep Train Arena against Ayala of Chino Hills.
“We knew at halftime that if we tightened up a few things on defense that we could possible hold them down a little bit more,” Buffaloes coach Brett Lewis said. “But it was our guys buying in and wanting to do it. A couple of things and I think we guarded even better in the second half.
“We expected them to make some kind of run but our guys responded. They were hungry.”
Manteca (28-6) was hungry from the start as Anand Hundal led the Buffaloes out of the gate. The 6-foot-9 power forward – who won the Victory with Honor award for his team – caught the Dragons (17-15) flat-footed when he drained a 15-footer to start Manteca’s scoring and then took that up a notch to give the Buffaloes an 8-6 lead on a nothing-but-net 3-pointer on a dish out from Tydus Verhoeven.
Hundal was the only Manteca player to score in all four quarters and shot a lights-out 12 of 15 from the field to lead all scorers with 25 points along with eight rebounds.
“He was due for one,” Lewis said of Hundal. “He has carried us all year. He has been struggling as of late – he did a lot of ice baths this week trying to freshen his legs up. No offense to them because we know they have some pretty good big guys, but we knew that our bigs were going to be our strength coming into this game. We knew we would be able to score inside of them.
“I think he hit his first career 3 – showing the arsenal – so it was good for him to get back on track.”
Hundal getting back on track may help him reach a long-time goal
“This feels amazing,” Hundal said. “I have been at this school since my freshman year and didn’t play varsity until last year. Since last year I have been trying to get to my goal of to play for a state title in my favorite team’s arena. Just playing the game is going to be amazing.”
With Hundal quietly dissecting the Dragons defense, 6-9 teammate Kenny Wooten Jr. repeatedly electrified the crowed with blocks (five) and multiple highlight-reel dunks. Wooten Jr. scored 13 points but it was his control of the glass that carried the day with 20 rebounds, leading the Buffaloes defense that clobbered Bishop O’Dowd on the boards 40-26.
“It was fun,” Wooten Jr. said. That type of atmosphere is always good because it always pumps me up and gets me into it.”
Wooten Jr. helped set up the most significant dunk of the night, and it was not his. Just after Bishop O’Dowd took the lead 26-25 late in the first half, he dished to the third Manteca big man – 6-8 Tydus Verhoeven – who slammed it home for a 27-26 halftime lead that the Buffaloes would not relinquish. Verhoeven finished with 12 points.
“We wanted to come out and make a statement by winning this game because we heard that we were soft and we were not from the Bay Area,” Verhoeven said. “We wanted to prove that in Manteca that we could play basketball too and we could represent our city well and the valley too.”
Held scoreless until late in the third quarter, Dwight Young took a half-court pass from Matt Ender and popped in a buzzer-beating layup to end the third period, giving Manteca all the momentum and a 41-32 lead going into the final period. Yong finished with eight points.
“That was huge,” Lewis said of Young’s layup. “They had just got two free throws and that layup was huge because we got the momentum back going into the fourth quarter that they had just stolen.”
The fourth period belonged entirely to the Buffaloes. Bishop O’Dowd managed just two points – and those were on free throws – in the first four minutes while Manteca poured in 13. Kenny Wooten had a pair of intimidating dunks which were converted into three-point plays and the Buffaloes ended the game strong with a 14-6 run.
Lewis summed it up best when he said, “This was the best game we played all year. These guys worked their butts off and we saved the best for one of the last against a good offensive team. Our effort and the numbers that were put up speak volumes. We earned it.”
With 14 points B.J. Shaw was the lone Dragons player to reach double figures.