STOCKTON — Big-time players know when to step up, and Manteca’s Loretta Kakala stepped up big time for the Buffaloes on Friday night at Weston Ranch.
Kakala scored five points and made a steal and an assist during a 9-2 game-ending run to help Manteca to a 54-51 come-from-behind win in Valley Oak League action.
“It’s been said that it is better to win ugly than lose pretty sometimes,” Buffaloes coach Ryan Bono said. “And I think that was a good, ugly win. In the VOL everyone is going to come to play and every game is going to be tough so you have to be able to close it out. When you have a lead you can’t turn the ball over and give up easy buckets.
“We got caught up in the speed of Weston Ranch and we wanted to try and run, and that got us out of our comfort zone a little bit.”
Trailing 49-45 with 2:09 left in the game, Kakala closed the gap to 49-47. She then made a steal and fed the ball to Malia Parangan to tie it up at 49. Sydney Fryer dished Kakala underneath with 45 seconds left to put Manteca (2-0 VOL, 5-8 overall) ahead for good.
Kakala finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.
“We had to pull through and play defense,” Kakala said. “We may have underestimated them a little bit but we played through it.”
Fryer (13 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals) tipped in a missed free throw with 18 seconds making the score 53-49.
“After the break at the end of the third quarter we worked together and communicated better,” Fryer said. “We played Manteca High basketball like we know how to play it.”
Vanessa Vega tipped in a miss with seven seconds showing on the clock to draw Weston Ranch (0-2, 6-6) within 53-51, and following a Kakala free throw the Cougars had one last chance to tie but a long shot at the buzzer rimmed out.
“We played hard tonight, but you can see that we’re still young,” Weston Ranch coach Darrell Johnson said. “We missed a lot of wide-open layups to start the game that put us in the hole.”
The Cougars climbed out of that hole in the third quarter, going on an 11-0 run to cut a 13-point deficit to 36-34 with 2:07 left in the period and eventually 38-37 later in the quarter.
“That run got us back in the game,” Johnson said. “It was just like against Central Catholic earlier in the week when we were down eight and went on a 7-0 run to come within one and we just couldn’t finish.
“We had some defensive mistakes on rotation and we didn’t get back, giving them some easy looks, and when you have that tower at 6-foot-3 (Kakala) that makes it tough. We look forward to going to their house and returning the favor.”
The Cougars’ Injesa Lomax shared high-point honors with Kakala, scoring all of her 14 points in the second half. Teammate Asia Stamps had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
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Adriana Valencia led the Buffaloes with 18 points and three steals.
Kaleah Sanders added 13 rebounds and four steals with Samanta Cerritos grabbing 10 boards and Savannah Alvarez adding six points, five rebounds, six assists three, three steals and a block.
Mariah Gattas led the Cougars with 11 points.
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Ashanti Boatman and Darnaysha Huff each had double-doubles for the Cougars.
Boatman had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Huff added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Jenna Laminero earned high-point honors for Weston Ranch with 12 points along with six assists.
The Buffaloes’ Victoria Villavazo led all scorers with 16 points with teammate Kaileah Johansen adding seven points.