After a dismal offensive showing in the first half from Manteca, the Buffaloes’ woes continued in the third and helped East Union to a one-sided 57-31 Valley Oak League win over the host Buffaloes Thursday at Dalben Center.
East Union did not do too much early on with the ball either, going into halftime with an 18-9 lead. The Lancers found their groove first, opening the second half on a 10-2 run and pushing Manteca back into a large double-digit deficit.
“We got rolling early and then their defense started to bug us a little bit,” East Union head coach Bret Lewis said. “It got us out of our game and had us trying to play their game a little bit. We made a couple of adjustments at the half and started scoring a little bit then.”
The Lancers (8-6, 16-10 overall) got impact play from Jake Danhoff, Alex Del Real and Justin Nieto. All three picked up the pace in the third, with Nieto and Del Real connecting on back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Lancers up by 17 late in the third.
Both Del Real and Nieto continued their dominance that has carried East Union over its past six games. The Lancers have won all six contests and both players have put up double-doubles in each victory. Del Real led all scorers with 22, while Nieto finished with 18. Nieto also pulled down 11 boards, and Del Real grabbed a game-high 13.
“We have been gelling lately and coming out with a better mindset and it has helped us a lot,” Nieto said. “Our coaching staff has been helping us a lot; coaches from the lower levels scrimmaging and trying to help us as much as they can.
“It’s just that we have had a way better mindset lately and it shows in our games.”
The Buffaloes showed minimal signs of promise in the contest, putting together their best spurt with a little more than a minute remaining in the third. Manteca (3-11, 10-17) wouldn’t score its first second half field goal until the 1:19 mark of the third, but the Buffaloes would reel off six unanswered, only East Union opened the fourth on a 15-1 run.
“It’s tough just knowing it’s your last game; I kind of got emotional out there,” Manteca’s Taylor Hasal said. “It’s not the way any team wants to end their season, especially for the seniors who have worked hard in the program for four years.
“Honestly, I have no idea what it was. We came out and seemed like we were a new team, we couldn’t get in the flow.”
The Lancers were the No. 15 seed in the most recent power rankings for Division III and stand to make a move up in the rankings after finishing the season with back-to-back wins. The final brackets should be announced Sunday by the Sac-Joaquin Section office.
Manteca 46, East Union 22
The Buffaloes were able to close out an impressive season in style, handling East Union with ease in the VOL finale for both clubs.
Lechi Nkwocha led Manteca with 11 points, helping the Buffaloes secure a portion of the VOL championship. The Buffaloes put together an impressive 12-2 season, finishing with at least a co-VOL champions with Sierra High.