It is tough to keep a good person down – no matter how much you push, pull or grab trying to do so.
At a big-framed 6-foot-3, Manteca senior Loretta Kakala has a target on her back – and front – every time she sets foot on the floor, and Friday night was no different when Kimball of Tracy paid a visit to Winter Gym.
By the time the dust and the elbows settled after a first half that saw five lead changes and three ties, the Buffaloes pulled away for a 65-52 Valley Oak League win that kept Manteca undefeated in league play and handed the Jaguars their first league loss.
“Kimball played a very physical game,” Manteca coach Ryan Bono said. “Teams always play physical against Loretta and Loretta is learning to be mentally tough. We work on it in practice – we beat her up in practice – so she gets used to it, even if she gets a little frustrated at times.”
If Kakala was frustrated she didn’t show it as she put up an impressive double-double with 25 points and 25 rebounds along with two blocks.
Before the game, Kakala was recognized for being a McDonald’s All-American nominee. Those who are named to the McDonald’s All-American team will be announced Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.
“We have been looking forward to this game because we knew they were going to be some of our toughest competition in league,” Kakala said. “We worked really hard to prepare for this game so I am glad we got a team win. I am very proud of our team.
“My coach said to play through how physical it was out there. I did get hit a lot but I did play through it.”
Kimball (3-1 VOL, 11-5) battled back to take a pair of one-point leads in the second quarter, but a three-point play by Kakala with 6:57 left in the half put the Buffaloes (4-0, 7-8) ahead at 15-12. Manteca would not trail again.
Although the Jaguars never retook the lead, they did not go away quietly. Two 3-pointers by Brittney Hudson kept Kimball close for a while, but an 8-0 Manteca run late in the half pushed the Buffaloes lead up to 10 before halftime.
“Kimball is a good team,” Bono said. “They battled back. We missed some shots and they made some shots.
“Hudson made some big shots for them and I pulled Jazz English off the bench to faceguard her. Jazz plays really solid defense so I put her on Hudson to deny her the ball.”
With the Jaguars defense collapsing on Kakala, Syd’nee Fryer was free to run the offense and she did so quite well, notching a double-double with 21 points behind a trio of 3-pointers along with 10 rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“I have been practicing 3-pointers a lot,” Fryer said. “Coach gave me the green light and it felt good to finally knock them down.
“It felt great coming together. This is my senior year and I love my team and it felt good to get a win as a team.”
Unfortunately for Kimball, aggressive defense can lead to foul trouble and that is what happened to the Jaguars.
“We got in foul trouble,” Kimball coach Mike Granillo said. “We got a lot of fouls called against us and that put us in a big hole. But as long as the girls come out and play hard that’s what we are looking for.
“We knew we were up for a battle and we are small, but we continued to come at them. Now we can prepare and get ready for our next challenge.”
Donwanae Anthony (13 rebounds) shared high-point honors for the Jaguars along with Hudson with 13 points.