Ryan Bono drew inspiration from the school band at halftime of Manteca’s Valley Oak League girls’ basketball game against visiting Sierra on Tuesday.
The pesky Timberwolves, with their eight freshmen, had an upset win brewing with a 10-point lead that held up after three quarters.
“Our band played our fight song at halftime and when it goes “Fight! Fight! Fight!” I turned around to the girls and said that’s all you got to do. You have to go out there and fight.”
And fight they did.
Galvanized by a 26-point outburst from senior guard Jayda Jackson along with some key moments from reserves, the Buffaloes rallied for a hard-earned 59-53 triumph that keeps them in the hunt for the league title with three games remaining.
“Bono told us we had to rebound, we had to be aggressive and we had to fight,” Jackson said. “That’s what possessed me. I was like, ‘We are not going to lose this game.’ We just had to come and do what we had to do.
“I had the confidence in our team that we were going to come back, but hats off to them because they came out and really made us push harder.”
All she did was score 12 straight points for Manteca (9-1 VOL, 17-7 overall) to deflate the deficit to three, 48-45, with 4 minutes, 30 seconds to go. Sierra (2-8, 13-12) led by as much as 12 after Inessa Villanueva followed up her own miss with a put-back layup in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
Jackson punctuated her personal run with a 3-pointer from the wing, a fast-break and-1 conversion and a coast-to-coast bucket off a turnover she forced all in a 70-second span.
The Buffaloes did not hold a lead all game until Jackson passed up an open look from the right wing and dished it to Paige Peterson on the baseline. Peterson, a senior celebrating her birthday Tuesday, buried the shot with 52 seconds left, pushing the Buffaloes ahead, 55-53.
“I like to make that extra pass, and today is her birthday,” Jackson said. “I had the utmost confidence in her. I knew she was going to make it.”
Manteca sealed it with four consecutive free throws made by Kyaira Jacobs and Victoria Villalvazo, capping a 9-0 closing run. Jacobs finished with 15 points and six rebounds.
Villalvazo earlier knocked down a key 3-pointer during the fourth-quarter comeback. Raelene Finley (four rebounds, steal) and Jadyn Nieman (four points, seven rebounds, two blocks) also provided a spark off the bench.
“We had some great bench play,” Bono said. “Jayda obviously played a great game, but this was truly a team effort. There were some players who had to step up tonight, and that’s good to see in a big game this late in the season.”
The Buffaloes trail VOL co-leaders Kimball and East Union but will soon get chances to avenge their two league losses. They’ll first travel to Kimball on Thursday.
Sierra (2-8, 13-12) nearly spoiled it for them. There was a carry-over affect from the previous showdown between the cross-town rivals in which Manteca led by as much as 17 in the second half and won 67-56 after some nervous moments as the T’wolves shrunk the deficit to single digits.
“From the last game we played them we learned a lot,” Sierra coach Rashonne Founts said. “We knew what they were going to do, we knew they’re a good outside-shooting team and that they can drive the ball.
“So, we worked on our help defense and made sure we had a hand in their face at the 3-point line and I think we were able to accomplish that in this game.”
Sierra stifled the Buffaloes with a zone defense and took advantage of second-chance opportunities on the other end. Freshman point guard Makayla Kakala scored five of her 11 points in the first period and helped the Timberwolves stake a 30-20 halftime advantage.
Villanueva, one of Sierra’s few upperclassmen, paced her team with 12 points. Brianna Parker added nine, while Marci Chaparro and Grace Langenfeld had eight each.
“Throughout the season I’ve seen them grow and it’s amazing,” Villanueva said of the young core. “They’ve been able to develop so fast and begin to build something special.”