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Manteca wraps Tracy tourney 3-1 with big win over Livingston
Kiwi Gardner had 11 points and eight assists in Manteca’s 71-60 win over Livingston Saturday in the fifth-place game of the Tracy Winter Holiday Classic. - photo by BRANDON PETERSEN
TRACY — Although Manteca could have very easily participated in the championship game of the Tracy Winter Holiday Classic Saturday evening, the Buffaloes faced a stiff test in Livingston in the fifth-place game, nonetheless.
Coming into the contest, the Wolves sported a gaudy 10-2 record and featured a 30 point-per-game scorer in Harnarinder Johal, but all that meant very little to Dave Asuncion’s bunch as the Buffaloes never trailed in a 71-60 win that could have been far more lopsided had it not been for a defensive lapse in fourth-quarter junk time.
Coming off a rousing double-double performance in a win over Buhach Colony Friday night, Dominique Barnes was challenged by Asuncion during the trip to Tracy to go toe-to-toe with Johal, which figured to be the key matchup of the contest.
While Johal scored 24 points, the head-to-head tale of the tape favored Barnes, who scored 19 points and collected nine rebounds in leading the Buffs to a momentum-building win.
“We kind of jokingly challenged (Barnes) today in the van about (Johal),” Asuncion said. “We said ‘Hey, who’s better, you or him?’
“Dominique answered that question.”
Barnes scored 11 first-half points and the Buffaloes stormed out of the gate, posting a 13-0 lead and holding Livingston scoreless for the first four and a half minutes.
Offensively, the Buffs could do no wrong in the first quarter, outscoring the Wolves 22-4 on seven assisted buckets.
Kiwi Gardner was fantastic, finishing with 11 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals, and was the catalyst in the first, dishing off four assists including a help to LaRon Bennett who capped the frame with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Barnes began the second quarter with back-to-back offensive putbacks and a flagrant foul free throw that came on the end of a nasty hack from Johal on a Barnes dunk attempt.
“We came out on top,” Barnes said. “(Johal) scored a lot, but he’s their main scorer, so I think we did pretty good containing him. I think he’s scoring like 30 a game. He had about 25 (today), but those points made the difference in the win.”
Gardner then drained a three of his own, and Gerry Cooper (8 points) closed out the second with a pair of buckets to give Manteca a 36-21 lead heading into the locker room.
“Obviously, we wanted to be 3-1 rather than 2-2,” Asuncion said. “For the most part we did things well. I would have like to have seen us box-out a little better, at times we got a little careless. But for the most part, we’re competing and the guys are understanding that if we play better defense we’ll be hard to beat.”
Nick Scheible was a consistent force throughout, collecting another double-double, this time with 14 points and 16 rebounds, and he sparked the offense in the third with a pair of assists.
Manteca (10-2 overall) closed out the third quarter with a brilliant full-court fastbreak that beat the buzzer when Bennett found Jorge Castro (6 rebounds) under the glass for two.
“We got sloppy at times, but overall, when a team’s pressuring you like that and we’re able to break the press like we did (at the end of the third quarter) without the ball touching the floor, that always makes you happy,” Asuncion said.
Barnes began the fourth with a layup that gave Manteca a 58-35 advantage. Barnes was the first Buffalo to score in every quarter, and was the recipient of a beautiful lob from Gardner with four minutes left in the fourth to put the Buffs up by 27.
Cooper’s back-to-back buckets at the 2:23 mark gave Manteca a 70-46 lead before Asuncion cleared his bench.
“We went 3-1, and I look at it as we could’ve been in the championship game, we should have been, but I’m glad we went 3-1,” Barnes said. “You can go 2-2 and finish in fourth place, so it’s a weird thing. But we won out (to close the tournament), and it’ll be good to head to Escalon like this.”
Ernie Pimentel finished with eight points and four assists, while Bennett contributed five points of his own.
Manteca visits the Cougars after a well-deserved Christmas break, Jan. 2.

Weston Ranch 55, Modesto 44
Although the Cougars finished the Tracy Winter Holiday Classic at 1-3, head coach Ryan Bono was pleased with his team’s progress, especially Saturday in the win.
Nate Moises (7 rebounds) and Derrick Sykes (6 rebounds) both finished with 14 points.
“From the fourth quarter of (Friday night’s) game and throughout today’s game, we’re starting to recognize what we need to do to be successful in (Valley Oak League play),” Bono said. “They’re taking the fundamentals they’re learning in practice and showing it on game day.
“We’re turning a corner.”
The Cougars (4-6 overall) travel to Franklin Jan. 30.