Manteca had opportunities at the end of regulation and overtime to pick up a critical win on Thursday.
Instead, Kimball fled Winter Gym with a 69-67 victory that keeps the Jaguars at the top of the standings after claiming this encounter between the Valley Oak League’s defending co-champions.
Meanwhile, the Buffaloes (3-2 VOL, 13-6 overall) slid to a two-game deficit behind the leaders with their back-to-back defeats this week. On Tuesday, they came up on the short end of a 58-55 thriller at East Union.
Despite some sloppy play in both instances, Manteca coach Ryan Bono appreciates the fight his players are showing. Against Kimball (5-0, 17-4), Kyaira Jacobs led them with 29 points, seven rebounds, six steals and four assists, while Jayda Jackson accumulated 22 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Kimball was paced by 15 points each from Giana Riley (five rebounds, five steals, two blocks) and Aleisha Sianipar (six rebounds). Dariana Willis, who made the game-winning shot, added 11 points and seven steals; Cayia Sims contributed 10 points, eight rebounds three steals; and 6-foot sophomore Adrianna Rodriguez collected eight points, 12 boards and six blocks.
The Jaguars have won five straight and 13 of their last 14.
“Unfortunately, the end of this game was a mirror image of East Union,” Bono said. “We gave up offensive rebounds on free throws and then had the turnovers. That hurt us, but it’s no fault of the girls. They played hard and that just happened. I was happy with the way they played today.
“I know the outcome wasn’t what we wanted but the effort was there. Kimball is a very solid team. This is something we can build on moving forward.”
Late in the extra period, Manteca committed unforced turnovers on three straight possessions — the last of which led to Willis’ go-ahead fastbreak bucket. The Buffs got the ball back with 4.5 seconds remaining and called timeout.
Jacobs received the inbounds pass from Jackson and dribbled past Kimball’s full-court press, drawing an extra defender as she approached the right wing. She found an open Jadyn Nieman in the right corner. The 3-point attempt at the buzzer had the right distance but grazed off the front of the rim. Nieman (three blocks), who has been a sparkplug off the bench, earlier knocked down a 3 from the other corner for Manteca’s only points in overtime.
“We wanted to get Kyaira going head of steam, and so we got her going head of steam,” Bono said. “I figured they were either going to collapse on her or she’s going to the rim.
“In 4 seconds she can get there, she’s done it before. I told the other girls to get to your shooting spot because Kyaira is going to find you if they double her. It worked and we got a good look. That’s all you can ask for going full-court in 4 seconds.”
Manteca also had the final shot in regulation. Jackson missed the layup, but the Buffaloes got another chance with 3.3 seconds left after a Kimball player deflected it out of bounds while battling for the rebound. Riley stole the inbounds pass for the Jaguars, sending the game to overtime.
Manteca did well to give itself the opportunities to win it down the stretch, with Kimball holding the lead for much of the second half. The Jaguars was ahead 62-57 after Marianthe Tsirelas’ corner 3 with 2:01 to go, but that was their final field goal in regulation.
Jackson and Jacobs accounted for all 21 of Manteca’s fourth-quarter points. Jackson drilled a deep 3 from the top of the arc with 1:13 left, and Jacobs tied it up at 64-64 with two free throws on the Buffaloes’ next possession.
“Kyaira and Jayda are team leaders,” Bono said. “They go, we go.”
Paige Peterson (six points, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocks) and Jaslyn Woods (three points, nine rebounds, three assists, nine steals, two blocks) found different ways to contribute for the Buffs.
Marissa Serrano buried two straight baseline jumpers at the start of the game to help Manteca stake a 9-2 lead. The Buffs were ahead 19-10 after the first quarter but gave up nine unanswered points to start the second — eight of them coming during a 54-second burst from the Jags.
The VOL heavyweights continued to trade blows from there. In the third, Peterson’s put-back layup gave Manteca a 41-35 advantage, but Kimball answered with an 8-0 run and led 45-43 at the end of the period.
The Buffaloes will look to move on from the tough week next Tuesday at Weston Ranch, which starts a three-game stretch on the road.
“I don’t know who said it, but you learn more from losses than from wins,” Bono said. “I think from the East Union game to this game, even though we only had one practice, they learned about overall effort and playing with confidence.
“Being the defending champ, everybody is coming after you and they learned that they have to bring it. We still have eight games left and we’ll need some help, but we can still make a run.”