By JONAMAR JACINTO
Consider it the unofficial season opener for Manteca High’s boys basketball team.
Michael Hatfield, one of five football players who competed in a CIF Regional Bowl Game last Saturday, fired 19 points on Thursday and led the Buffaloes to a 48-39 win over Florin in the Running with the Pack Tournament held at Cosumnes Oaks of Elk Grove.
They take on Elk Grove (4-5), a 47-40 winner over McKinleyville, starting at 8:30 tonight in the semifinals.
It was just the second game of the season for the 6-foot-6 Hatfield, a tight end for the school’s Sac-Joaquin Section championship football team. He helped the Buffaloes (6-3) knock off rival East Union in the third-place game of the Modesto City Classic. Without him and the rest of the football athletes, Manteca was able to place second in the Save Mart Classic in Atwater last week.
“We’re still trying to get the guys in basketball shape,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said.
The Buffs dominated the start and the end of Thursday’s contest, jumping out to a 12-2 lead and closing the contest with a 10-2 run after Florin did well to hang around in the middle quarters.
“We got off to a nice start to the game,” Asuncion said. “Defensively we made them take tough shots. We got a little careless with the ball in the second half and let them get back into the game.”
Austin Haro contributed 10 points, and Miguel Lopez dished out six assists.
Lathrop 60, Downey 38
In Modesto, the Spartans (6-2) held winless Downey (0-10) to single-digit scoring in three out of the four quarters, and all but one player scored in the rout.
“We’re a much better team when (scoring) is balanced like that,” said Lathrop coach Nathan McGrath, previously an assistant for Downey.
Nicholaus Obazuaye paced the Spartans with 17 points, Eric Spencer chipped in 12 and T.J. Conley had 10.
Lathrop has more than a week off from game action, as it next heads to Beyer of Modesto on Dec. 30.
Downey 62, Lathrop 34
Amritpal Singh poured in 10 points, but it was otherwise an all-around struggle for the visiting Spartans.
The sophomore contingent improved to 6-2 after beating the Knights, 49-30.