Marcus Montano and the Manteca boys basketball team couldn’t make a shot in the first quarter.
The Buffaloes were held without a field goal for the first 9 minutes, 39 seconds of their pivotal Valley Oak League tilt with visiting Central Catholic on Wednesday but they made them count in crunch time. Montano scored all 14 of his points in the second half, and the thrilling 57-55 overtime triumph was punctuated by his deciding layup in the final seconds. The Buffaloes (4-0 VOL, 12-4 overall) trailed by 11, 39-28 with 7 minutes left in regulation.
“In the first three quarters nothing was falling and I knew I had to make up for it,” Montano said. “Luckily in the fourth quarter I got a couple of open looks and made it happen.”
Montano’s scoring came in the fourth and extra periods, and Manteca coach Brett Lewis didn’t hesitate to let the senior with the hot hand take the final shot.
Peter Hamilton (9 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) tied it by making one of two free throws with 15.2 seconds remaining, and Lewis burned a timeout with 6.8 ticks left. He drew up a give-and-go play involving Montano, the inbounder, and Anand Hundal, who received the initial pass on the left wing. After putting it in play, Montano, bolted past defender Drew Loya along the sideline and Hundal dished it back for the layup with about 4 seconds to go.
Central Catholic attempted to call a timeout, but the buzzer sounded as the Buffalo faithful flooded the court at Winter Gym.
“He’s been huge,” Lewis said of Montano. Since league started he’s definitely hit a new gear. He’s not afraid of taking a big shot, as you can see right there.”
A pair of sophomores led the way for both teams: Manteca’s Tydus Verhoeven grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 18 points, while Jarod Rice scored 17 of his 21 in the second half while collecting six steals for Central Catholic.
In the matchup of 6-foot-8 bigs, Hundal wound up with 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks after a frustrating start. Central’s Jordan Boddie had 10 points, two blocks and a two-handed dunk that pushed the Raiders’ lead to 43-35 midway through the fourth.
Manteca outscored them 24-14 in the fourth quarter but was held to half those points in an ugly first half. Angel Perez hit the first of two free throws for the Buffaloes’ only point in the opening quarter and Central Catholic carried a 9-1 lead into the second. Adrian Contreras’ layup represented Manteca’s first field goal, which dropped with 6:21 left in the half.
The Raiders also struggled from the field and was ahead 18-12 by the break.
“It was rough,” Montano said. “We’re used to seeing teams play us man (defense) and then they started playing zone. We were getting our shots up but they weren’t falling. We just had to adjust and try and get stuff inside the paint.”
Manteca also had to match Central Catholic’s rugged play in the paint. Hundal and Verhoeven were visibly flustered early on by the Raiders’ physical play, but they — along with Contreras off the bench — helped set the tone for the Buffaloes in the latter half.
“We knew (the officials) were going to let us play,” Lewis said. “In the second half we finally realized that they weren’t going to call anything and that we had to battle inside.
“We’re a little young and sometimes we have to get punched in the mouth a little bit. We were definitely staggering like Rocky tonight.”
The tide turned in Manteca’s favor with less than 4 minutes to go when things got chippy. A Central Catholic player was whistled for a technical foul after pushing a Buffalo. Frankie Lopez and Hundal combined to go 2 for 4 from the line, but Montano made it hurt with a key 3-pointer from the left corner.
That was the start of a 12-2 run that gave Manteca its first lead of the game. Hundal tied it at 45-45 with a conventional 3-point play and on the other end he came up with a blocked shot that led to Montano’s go-ahead transition layup.
“I give them credit for coming back,” Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson said. “They did a good job of continuing to fight and we had some letdowns.”
No team in the league has had a tougher start than Central Catholic, making its first run through the VOL after reigning in the Western Athletic Conference the past three seasons. The Raiders are now 1-3 (9-6 overall) with other losses coming at the hands of Weston Ranch and Sierra.
“It’s just like life, you don’t quit,” Wilson said. “Manteca still has to come to us and so does everybody else. We’re not worried about that. We’ll keep fighting.”
Central Catholic 46
Gino Campiotti poured in 22 points as the Buffaloes (4-0, 12-2) pulled away late after leading 30-28 at halftime.
Antwann Taylor contributed with 13 points. Kyle Bolding and Kyle Reis each had eight.