Brett Lewis emerged from the locker room smiling and with good reason: his Manteca boys basketball team had squeaked out a 61-58 win over Central Catholic in a marquee match-up between the Valley Oak League’s top two teams Thursday at Winter Gym.
The visiting Raiders (3-1 VOL, 12-3 overall), who overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, had a chance to take the lead with 9.8 seconds left but Malcolm Clayton missed a pair of free throws.
Matthew Ender (six points) grabbed his 11th rebound of the night and dished it to Gino Campiotti (eight points), who then capped the final score by making two from the foul line. Cooper Wilson’s long-range 3-pointer missed the mark at the buzzer.
“It was one of the first times in about four weeks that I haven’t yelled at them after a win — that felt good,” Lewis said. “We battled, man. We didn’t give up. We went on a run and then they’d answer right back. We showed we could battle some adversity and that was huge. We just have to keep up this intensity and this style of play.”
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this one came down to the wire, even after Tydus Verhoeven’s free throws gave Manteca (4-0, 11-5) a 51-41 lead with 7:18 remaining. Three of the previous four meetings between these championship teams — Central claimed the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title last year while the Buffaloes claimed the CIF State Division III crown — were decided by one or two points.
Verhoeven finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks.
“They have veterans who have been on varsity for a while,” Verhoeven said. “They know how to play and I was expecting them to hit shots. They were missing shots that they normally make. I give it to them; they made a run at the end.”
While Verhoeven shouldered much of the load, Dwight Young made the biggest shot of the game.
Central Catholic scored 10 unanswered points, all coming from Joshua Hamilton, and seized the lead at 58-56 with 1:06 to go. Hamilton led the Raiders with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
“He’s done that a couple of times this year,” Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson said. “My deal with them is we’ll ride your wave but you have to recognize when it’s crashing. We went as long as we could with him and he did a nice job and hit some really clutch, difficult shots.”
Manteca, in the meantime, struggled to get shots to fall during the rally, missing three makeable layups. Young ended the drought with a gutsy step-back 3 — and with Amrit Dhaliwal’s hand in his face — with 39 seconds left.
There was plenty of time on the shot clock as the Buffaloes tried to organize their offense when Young buried the go-ahead bomb from the top of the arc. He ended up with 13 points and six boards.
“That’s Dwight,” Lewis said. “You’re screaming “No, no, no!” and he hits it and you’re screaming “Yes!” That’s him. Was it a great shot? No, but he has ice in his veins and he continues to do that for us. I wouldn’t want him to shoot it again but that’s what he does.”
Central Catholic wishes he didn’t take it.
“They hit some big shots,” Wilson said. “They were attacking the paint real hard on us and got to the foul line. They finished some shots that were difficult and that was really it. They responded well from our little waves. We got the opportunities we wanted at the end of the game and we didn’t finish.”
Central Catholic 68,
Sal Safi paced Manteca (0-4, 4-10) with nine points.
Central Catholic 40
Jordan Burciaga registered 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Buffaloes (4-0, 11-3).
Spencer Briscoe made three 3s and finished with 13 points. Trabon Russell added eight points.