By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Washingtons leadership was the difference for Buffaloes
Sharon Washington averaged 19.3 points in the Valley Oak League while leading Manteca High to its first conference championship since 2000. - photo by HIME ROMERO



• G/F Lexy Posz, East Union senior: Bulletin’s All-Area MVP a year ago once again filled up the stat sheet for the Lancers. The multi-faceted Posz averaged 14.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.5 steals while leading EU with 24 3-pointers. She recorded a triple-double (18 points, 10 rebounds, 10 steals) in a non-league win over Johansen.


• G Briona Fontenot, East Union senior: Arguably the area’s most athletic player, Fontenot paced the Lancers with 15.1 points per game at an impressive 51-percent clip (133-for-247). She came up big in EU’s second of two wins over rival and VOL champ Manteca High, scoring 10 of her 21 total points during a 12-0 run that helped turned the tide for the Lancers.


• F Mikaela Alger, Ripon Christian junior: The Knights may have played the softest schedule among the area’s seven teams, but it’s hard to ignore Alger’s numbers on a squad that prides itself on balanced production. She led the Southern League’s runner-up team with 15.1 points while making her presence felt in the post with her 5-11 frame, averaging 13.2 rebounds and blocking 1.6 shots per game.


• PG Timnesha Wilson, Weston Ranch senior: A three-year varsity standout, the area’s top point guard turned it on during VOL play after a ho-hum preseason stretch when she was held to single-digit scoring five times. That ended once league tipped off, as Wilson averaged 19.1 points in 14 conference games. Overall, she ended up with 14.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.7 assists.
• G Kendra Contente, Ripon senior: Four-year varsity player was named to the all-Trans Valley League first team for three of those seasons. Was the Indians’ leading 3-point shooter (30-for-107) and scored 10.8 per game, but it was her intensity in other areas that made her the heart and soul of the team. The daughter of TVL Coach of the Year George Contente also averaged 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 2.2 assists.
• F Tia Tuuga, Manteca freshman: Mature beyond her years, it didn’t take long for Tuuga to make her presence felt. In the Buffaloes’ first game of the season she collected 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks in limited playing time. A natural guard, it was common for her to grab a rebound and lead the fastbreak. For the season, she averaged 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 steals.
• F Alysia Atkins, Sierra senior: In Sierra’s biggest win of the season, Atkins poured in 17 points, 11 rebounds and five steals against VOL rival Sonora, which held double-digit leads in each half. She was the T’Wolves’ best offensive weapon with 14.6 points per game but was also their defensive enforcer, adding 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
• PF Jordan Johnson, Sierra senior: Atkins and Johnson formed the area’s best low-post tandem, which anchored the Timberwolves’ run to the postseason. Johnson averaged 9.1 points and 11.5 rebounds. When Atkins wasn’t the focal point of Sierra’s attack, Johnson proved more than capable of handling the load. She scored 17 points while pulling down 18 rebounds in a near-upset of East Union.
• C Rachel Rodriguez, Ripon senior: Rugged 5-11 center was the area’s most imposing force in the key. Proved to be more than just a banger inside in her senior campaign however, as she more than doubled her points-per-game average (12.5 compared to 5.2 as a junior) while leading her team in the category. She also paced the Indians with 8.2 rebounds to go with a 1.4 steals and a block per game.

— Jonamar Jacinto
Sharon Washington was one of the last Manteca High players to leave the locker room at Christian Brothers’ Ron Limeberger Gym in Sacramento.

She, like the rest of her teammates, had glossy eyes and damp cheeks.

The Buffaloes had just played their final game of what was an outstanding 2010-11 girls basketball season.  For Washington, it was the final game of what was an outstanding prep career.

But with those tears came smiles, and not long after laugher ensued.

Fiery on the court but easy-going off of it, the Buffaloes took on the personality of Sharon Washington, the Bulletin’s All-Area MVP.

Never mind the sting that came with the 70-60 loss in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs — that went away quickly.

What pained Washington most was the realization that her time with her friends as teammates is over.

It took four years for Washington to lead the Buffaloes (12-2, 22-5 overall) to a Valley Oak League championship and a postseason victory — neither had happened since 2000 when that team earned a section title.

“I was really proud of my team,” Washington said. “Even though it ended with a loss it was the perfect season for me. In the beginning we made it our goal to win a VOL championship and to finally get it was surreal.

“Before this year I never made it past the first round. We were always the 16th seed and always lost big. No (Manteca High) team had it past the second round in over 10 years, and I think they can make it even farther next year.

“Just to be a part of it meant a lot to me.”

She wasn’t just a part of it. This was her team.

Her style of play epitomized what Manteca was all about this year. The Buffaloes were fortunate to have multi-talented players such as sophomore Mikayla Hasal, freshman Tia Tuuga and reserve juniors Jaqi Gutierrez, Mia Ramirez and Karleasha Thompson who can all do a little bit of everything with all-out effort and efficiency.

Washington’s stats speak for themselves: 17.5 points per game, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.7 steals. Her all-around skills for a point guard landed her a scholarship to play for Chico State, traditionally one of the top NCAA Division-II programs in the nation.

Washington was too talented even as a freshman for head coach Andrea Hiatt to keep her in the lower levels. Washington was brought up to the varsity midway through the league season, and she averaged 10.4 points per game.

As a sophomore she scored 13.5 points per game, then 16.4 as a junior.

In Washington, Hiatt knew she had a bona fide scorer going into this season. She also had her deepest team in her seven years as head coach.

Manteca just needed something extra from its best player to tie it all together.

“My freshman year I wasn’t really vocal — I was the little one that year and real soft-spoken,” Washington said. “Going into this year coach told me to be more vocal. She said I know the game and trusted me to be the leader of the team. For her to give me that responsibility meant a lot.

“I knew I had to step up.”

Washington had different ways of exercising her leadership. In the Buffaloes’ season-opening 76-33 thrashing of Central Valley, she scored 11 points but chose to involve her teammates more rather than look for her own shots.

She made it a personal goal for everyone on the team to score (mission accomplished), but one player in particular flourished because of Washington’s unselfishness.

Making her varsity debut as a freshman, and admittedly nervous about it, Tuuga was on the receiving end of most of Washington’s six assists that night.

Tuuga finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Washington was more than happy to step aside to make it happen.

“Before the season started I saw how much talent we had and how well we worked together,” she said. “I just knew that if we stuck to playing as a team we’d have a successful year. Even after we fell we were there to pick each other back up after losses.”

First came the head-scratching 55-48 non-league loss to an Atwater team that finished 12-15. It was a needed wake-up call. From that point forward, the Buffaloes beat every team they were supposed to beat and did so by large margins.

Their losses after that were to teams with winning traditions.

In the championship round of the Tom Hawkins/Tracy Breakfast Lions Tournament, Manteca suffered a 72-58 loss to SJS Division-II semifinalist El Camino of Sacramento. That was an indication that the Buffaloes can hang with an elite team but had room for improvement.

Then there were the two losses in league, both to the Lady Lancers of East Union with whom they’ve shared an intense rivalry in Washington’s four years.

East Union fought back from double digit deficits both times, winning the first game 53-50 at home before taking the second 64-57 on Manteca’s own court in the final contest of the regular season.

It wasn’t too sour an end to the regular season for the Buffs, who still had the outright championship and cut down the nets at Winter Gym that night to celebrate the feat.

It’s story all too familiar to East Union, which last year dropped two of three contests to Manteca. The second loss was in the VOL finale, when the Lancers cut down their own nets.

“I’d rather let them have it and take VOL any day,” Washington said.

Washington is looking forward to new challenges ahead in her next life as a basketball player, which in her mind has already started.

She continues to play competitively for an Amateur Athletic Union team and works on her conditioning by weight training and running 3 miles a day.

“I’m excited but nervous at the same time,” Washington said. “I’ll just have to wait and see what the future will bring.”