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Cougars late charge comes up short
Manteca point guard Mikayla Hasal looks to the wing for an open teammate as Weston Ranch’s Emoni Wilson sticks to her defensively in Thursday’s Valley Oak League contest at Winter Gym. For additional photos, visit . - photo by Photo by CHRIS LEONARD
Trailing by as much as 19 points in the second half, Weston Ranch’s girls basketball team managed to remain a threat in the fourth quarter before falling 63-53 to Manteca High Thursday at Winter Gym.

Point guard Timnesha Wilson scored 15 — 13 of them in succession — of her game-high 28 points in the final period for the visiting Cougars (1-1 Valley Oak League, 7-6 overall). They were behind by double digits throughout the fourth but still seemed to be in it with a minute left after Jazmin Strane’s traditional 3-point play made it 62-49.

Strane, an athletic 6-foot forward, had 15 points, 17 rebounds, four steals and four blocks. Wilson added eight rebounds and three steals.

 “We battled back and did a great job of getting stops, we just didn’t get the big buckets when we needed them,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer said. “But the effort, the hustle, the heart were huge.”

Manteca (2-0 Valley Oak League, 11-2 overall) closed the first half on a 15-2 run to lead 42-25 at the break, but committed 11 turnovers in an ugly third quarter in which the Buffaloes outscored Weston Ranch, 7-6.

The two teams combined for 60 turnovers (32 for Manteca), but mistakes are unavoidable in this matchup because both play aggressively on defense.

 “Never at any point was I comfortable, even when we were up by that much,” Manteca coach Andrea Hiatt said. “I knew they had the capability of coming back quick and they did.

“They made a nice little run on us; fortunately we were able to get some stops at the end when we needed it. … We knew this would be a dogfight, and we expect it to be one again the next time we play them.”

Sharon Washington sat most of the first quarter because of foul trouble and still led Manteca with 20 points and seven rebounds. Mikayla Hasal was solid all around, as she contributed 10 points, five steals, four assists and three blocks.

Manteca’s substitutes played a key role.

Freshman forward Tia Tuuga, the Buffaloes’ second leading scorer this season, was held scoreless until she recorded her only points with 2:13 left in the game with a layup. Tuuga, slowed by both illness and foul trouble, fouled out with 1:04 remaining.

Three reserves in particular picked up the slack. Mia Ramirez hit two of Manteca’s eight 3-pointers and finished with nine points; defensive sparkplug Karleasha Thompson chipped in five points, six steals and three assists; and third-year varsity junior Jaqi Gutierrez had seven points and nine rebounds.

“Tia never got into the groove of the game,” Hiatt said. “Jaqi came through big time for us and was huge in the paint, and Karleasha and Mia always spark us is some way.

“We’ve got girls who come off the bench, but they’re not really bench players.”