Manteca, with its combination of size and perimeter marksmen, presents the classic pick-your-poison dilemma for opposing teams.
El Capitan held its own against the Buffaloes’ towering frontline in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff opener Wednesday, but with all eyes on the 6-foot-9 tandem of Anand Hundal and Kenny Wooten it was the slender 5-11 Dwight Young that dashed the 14th-seeded Gauchos’ hopes for an upset.
Young knocked down four straight 3-pointers in the third quarter and hit six total from long range, as the No. 3 Buffaloes raced away to a 70-53 victory. He led four Manteca players in double figures with 23 points.
“We took that gamble,” El Capitan coach Christopher Tufts said. “We knew (Young) could shoot, but we needed to make sure that we could take care of the inside first and be able to rotate out fast enough. We were getting guys at him with hands in his face but he was just lights out.”
Manteca (23-5) came out of halftime nursing a 32-27 lead, and UC Merced-bound point guard Isaiah Knott was able to keep El Capitan (21-7) within reach by scoring his team’s first six points of the third quarter. He ended up with 18 points before fouling out late.
The Buffaloes responded with a 12-3 run powered by three consecutive 3s made by Young, who came alive in other facets of the game. He also had three steals in the third and grabbed all seven of his rebounds in the second half.
Young nailed another 3 for good measure with 51 seconds to go in the third, giving Manteca its largest lead at 56-38.
“It’s playoff time. I wanted to turn my game up another level and it’s time for our whole team to step our game up another level,” Young said. “Our goal is to make it to state but we’re taking it one game at a time, and we have to come out harder than what we did.”
El Capitan gave the Buffaloes fits with its hard-nosed play in the first half, outrebounding them 15-10 with eight of those boards coming off the offensive glass. That was rectified over the final two quarters when Manteca dominated, 19-7. The Gauchos’ tallest player is sophomore starter Mark Sellers, who stands 6-4.
“We were standing and watching,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said of his team’s first-half effort on the boards. “We knew they were going to bring it — league champ with a good record, they probably got snubbed a little bit. We knew they were going to come in with a chip on their shoulders and they proved that.
“Our guys came out a little lackadaisical and shaded away (from the physical play). We talked about it at halftime and I think we were the more physical team after that.”
Not all was bad for Manteca at the start. Ball movement was emphasized in practice, as the Gauchos were expected to come out in a 2-3 zone — they did. The Buffaloes converted 12 field goals in the first half, 11 of them coming with assists.
Tydus Verhoeven accounted for six assists, but the 6-8 guard also racked up 14 points and four blocks. Hundal settled for 12 points after scoring eight in the first quarter. Wooten had 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Senior guard Angel Perez contributed eight points and four assists.
“We’re best when we’re moving the ball like that,” Verhoeven said. “It’s huge. They have to respect everybody on the court. You can’t pay attention to just one guy.”
Manteca faces No. 6 Lincoln of Placer County in the quarterfinal round Friday. The Fighting Zebras (24-4) clobbered Christian Brothers 65-41 in their opener.