WHO: Manteca (1-2, 8-8) vs. Sierra (1-2, 6-6)
WHERE: Winter Gym
TIPOFF: 7:15 p.m.
Then soon-to-be freshman Jaqi Gutierrez was at a crossroads after graduating from Shasta School.
Go to Sierra High and play for her father, Issac Gutierrez, the school’s varsity girls basketball coach, or join her friends across town at Manteca?
“I like my dad a lot, but he’s always going to be my coach no matter what,” Jaqi said following Wednesday’s practice at Manteca’s Winter Gym. “I basically just came here for my friends.”
“And cousin,” Morgan Salsedo chimed in.
“Oh yeah, and cousin,” said Gutierrez, adding that Salsedo is one of her role models.
Issac, himself a 1977 Manteca graduate, is fine with his daughter being at his alma mater as long as she keeps her grades up, which hasn’t been a problem so far.
Salsedo, a senior who is among the Buffaloes’ leading scorers with a10-points-per-game average, and Gutierrez will face Issac’s Timberwolves for the second time this season.
“We talk basketball 24-7,” Jaqi said about her relationship with Issac. “It’s funny because we’ll always talk about how our team is going to beat the other one, but it’s all fun and games — nothing serious.”
Tonight will actually mark the third time in which the cousins squared off with another member of the family.
The light-hearted trash talking started at the 31st Annual Amos Alonzo Stagg High Delta Queen Tournament opener in Stockton Dec. 12, when their cousin, Jazmin Gutierrez, and her Bear Creek Bruins got the better of them, 47-36.
Jazmin, Bear Creek’s top scorer at a 15.8 ppg clip, fired in 14 points in that game, and Jaqi had one of her best performances of the season with eight in limited time.
A day later, Sierra staved off a late Manteca charge to win 54-51.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” Salsedo said of the back-to-back losses. “You want family to do well, but you want to win.
“I’m pretty anxious to play them again.”
Issac is anxious as well, but more so because of the magnitude of the contest.
Both teams are 1-2 in the Valley Oak League, and Sierra is coming off a key 45-38 victory that ruined Oakdale’s perfect start to the regular season.
And uncle/daddy doesn’t plan on going easy on the Buffaloes.
“Of course I want my daughter and my niece to do well, but not good enough to beat us,” he said. “The bottom line is that I’m committed to Sierra, and it’s my job to win games for Sierra.
“Putting family aside, it’s a big game for us. We need to start getting on a winning streak if we want to compete for league.”