By JONAMAR JACINTO
SACRAMENTO — Manteca’s focus defensively was to guard the paint, and Inderkum made the visiting Buffaloes pay in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinal Thursday.
Senior guards Daisia Williams and Kaliya Griffin poured in 23 and 21 points, respectively, while combining for nine made 3s, as the fourth-seeded Tigers rolled to an impressive 69-51 victory.
“All year long we’ve talked about protecting the middle,” Manteca coach MaryAnn Tolbert said. “I felt like today our middle was safe, so we said if they were going to beat us with the 3 then they’ll beat us with the 3.”
Inderkum (21-7), of course, didn’t just win it from long range. The Tigers’ superior speed and energy allowed them to jump ahead 11-3, and they were able to convert on fastbreak opportunities off many of the 21 turnovers they caused. But if teams are going to give their shooters space, Inderkum coach Phillip Hampton said they’ll let it fly.
“That’s just hard to defend all the time from everywhere on the floor,” he said. “We know who our high-percentage shooters are and we have to make sure we know where they are at all times. We play the odds. We’re 30 percent from behind the arc (for the season), and tonight we shot 30 3s and made nine of them — that’s 27 points. We’ll play the numbers all night long.”
Lejla Pepic led No. 5 Manteca (19-10) with 13 points. Loretta Kakala finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Sydnee Fryer had11 points and nine rebounds. Ruben Dehal chipped in eight points, five rebounds and five assists.
Manteca did show some fight before succumbing to jarring scoring runs from Inderkum. After its sluggish start it finished the first quarter strong and took its first lead, 16-15, on Dehal’s 3 from the wing. It was short-lived, as Williams hit the first of her five 3s from the left corner as time expired.
The Buffaloes then scored the first five points of the second quarter and had its largest lead at three, 21-18, after Elizabeth Tolbert’s layup that was set up by a nice feed from Kakala. Inderkum answered with a 23-4 run to end the half and held Manteca without a field goal over the final 3 minutes. The lead was at 41-25 by the break.
Manteca again showed life to start the second half, scoring five unanswered points while forcing turnovers on each of Inderkum’s first three possessions.
“There were moments,” coach Tolbert said. “At the end of the first we gained some ground and looked really, really good. I thought we looked good at the start of the first and made some stops, we just couldn’t (capitalize) off the stops.”
Williams did more than just score for the Tigers, adding six rebounds, seven assists and four steals to go with her game-high point total.
“We’ve been on life support since December,” Hampton said. “We lost three key seniors, and with those girls in the lineup there are a lot of games that go different.”
Inderkum is one of three teams from the Tri-County Conference playing in the SJS Division III semifinals, joining fellow three-way champions River Valley, which upset No. 2 East Union on Thursday, and Rio Linda. The Tigers take on top-seeded Christian Brothers at Galt High next Wednesday.