In a game that featured a head-to-head showdown between the Valley Oak League’s two best senior post players, it was the guards who made the difference.
Manteca High visited rival East Union and came away with a 47-41 on Friday.
While 6-foot-6 center Mikey Hatfield led the Buffaloes (5-4 VOL, 13-9 overall) with 15 points, it was a balanced scoring effort and the scrappy defense of the backcourt that put them over the top.
“We always have fresh legs coming in,” Manteca’s shooting guard Austin Haro said of the team’s backcourt depth. “We wanted to pressure their guards as much as we could and keep them from getting the ball to (Jake) Danhoff. I think we did a pretty good job of that.
“We got a couple of steals on breakaways and that helped us get that six-point differential in the end.”
The 6-6 Danhoff did his thing, scoring a game-high 17 points to go with six rebounds. But the stumbling Lancers (1-8, 8-12), who have now dropped six straight, only got 12 points from their guards — all coming from Lucas Garcia. Garcia hit four second-half 3-pointers, including a halfcourt buzzer beater to end the game. Clay Cuneo added nine points and seven boards.
Manteca had six guards account for 32 of its scoring. Brandon Dabney sparked the Buffaloes with 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals off the bench. He scored on two layups — one of them off a dazzling spin move in transition — during a critical 8-0 spurt that gave Manteca a 29-22 lead in the third quarter.
Haro chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds, and reserve Marcus Montano ripped five away five steals.
“They brought some energy off the bench and we definitely needed it,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said of Dabney and Montano.
Manteca struggled out the gate, falling behind 5-0 after a Danhoff 3 and not getting on board until Hatfield’s and-1 bucket with 3:22 left in the first.
The game started nearly a full hour after the usual estimated tipoff of 7:15. East Union held a ceremony in honor of Gary Kron, who had his jersey retired before the varsity game.
Asuncion said that was not the cause of his team’s rusty start.
“We knew there was going to be a ceremony so we were prepared for it,” he said. “(East Union) had the same long break than us.”
Manteca remains in a third-place tie with Lathrop and has won two in a row following a three-game skid. Asuncion is hopeful the Buffaloes’ struggles are behind them with five games left in the regular season.
“We’re just trying to keep getting better,” he said. “We’ll continue to plug away and hopefully win some more games.”
East Union 77, Manteca 65
It was a high-scoring affair between two of the VOL’s tri-leaders. The Squires (7-2) outscored Manteca 24-10 in the third quarter and produced 46 second-half points.
Austin Miller spearheaded four East Union players in double figures with 21 points, but he was not the high scorer. That distinction goes to Manteca’s Ramon Gallardo, who pumped in 20 of his 23 in the fourth period alone.
Gyse Hulsebosch and Eric Flores each added 17 points for East Union. Malik Thomas had 11. For Manteca, Anand Hundal turned in 13 points while Frankie Lopez hit four 3s for all of his 12.
Manteca 53, East Union 44
Jose Garcia fired 22 points as the Buffaloes (7-2, 10-9) handed the Pages their second overall loss of the season. Ryan Brock and Ascari Johnson chipped in 10 and eight, respectively.