For the better part of three quarters, the Turlock crowd did their best to unlock the mystery of Anand Hundal, Manteca’s 6-foot-8 junior center.
What’s his first name? What’s his best move? How tall is he? Who does he remind you of?
Hundal is only 15 and still learning the intricacies and nuances of the game, but the more apt question these days, at least in the Buffalo camp, is not “Who is he?” but rather “What will he become?”
The possibilities are endless, and as he showed during Tuesday’s final non-conference tune-up with the Bulldogs, Hundal is worthy of such praise.
He scored a game-high 17 points, blocked three shots and displayed vision and touch in delivering a timely assist in a 47-41 victory over Turlock.
Hundal spied Frankie Lopez in the corner with less than 6 minutes to go, and the reserve guard connected on a 3 that fueled Manteca’s final push.
Haunted by poor fourth quarters at the Cosumnes Oaks Tournament last week, the Buffaloes closed the game on a 14-5 run.
Turlock led twice in the final stanza, including 41-40 with 1:19 left, but Manteca scored the final seven points to improve to 8-4.
The Buffaloes open VOL play on Jan. 6 at Lathrop with a full complement of players. Six-foot-8 transfer Kenny Wooten will be eligible to play after sitting out the first 30 days of the season, per the Sac-Joaquin Section’s transfer rule.
For now, though, the focus is on Tuesday’s finish and the 6-foot-8 post that hasn’t missed any games.
“We won three last week and has some bad fourth quarters,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “Being in that position in our last game going into league, it was a good test for us. We finally responded. I’m proud of the way we responded because we’ve been going and hiding in the fourth. Hopefully, we’re growing.”
Marcus Montano scored 10 points and was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final minute, while scrappy guards Tyler Graves-Kelso and Ramon Gallardo each had seven points for the Buffaloes.
Demsen McFaddin scored all 14 of his points in the second half for Turlock (5-5), which clawed out of an 18-point hole in the third quarter. The Bulldogs turned up the pace and forced Manteca into nine third-quarter turnovers, culminating in a 20-2 run.
Will Hilgen’s corner 3 brought Turlock all the way back, knotting the score at 28s. His tear-drop floater off the glass moments later gave the Bulldogs their first lead, 30-28.
Lewis immediately burned a timeout and could be heard throughout Winter Gymnasium scolding his team for their lack of heart and hustle.
“We got tired and we got some discipline issues going on right now; that was clear today,” Lewis said. “Our five that played most of the first half, they got tired a little bit. The guys the came off the bench didn’t come off with energy. It was a goofy situation and hopefully we learn from it.”
Manteca started the game with sophomore Tydus Verhoeven on the bench, but it appeared the Buffaloes would be OK without the 6-foot-7 dynamo.
Graves-Kelso and Gallardo provided the energy and hustle, complimenting Hundal’s imposing presence in the middle.
Manteca opened the game on an 8-0 run and led 14-4 after the first quarter. The Buffaloes led by as many as 18 points on Hundal’s hook in the lane with 3:26 remaining in the half.
Hardly a finished product, Hundal showed flashes of brilliance. He dunked with one hand in transition, two hands in a crowded paint and unveiled a spin move.
He also had nine rebounds.
“Anand is playing huge right now,” Lewis said. “He battles. He’s definitely our MVP right now. For a 15-year-old junior who skipped third grade, he’s young and becoming more athletic before our eyes.”
Graves-Kelso had four points, five rebounds and four assists in the first half, while Gallardo knocked down a 3 and matched Hundal with seven.
Verhoeven didn’t check into the game until about the four-minute mark in the third quarter. He was immediately pulled, but played large in the fourth.
He finished with three rebounds and two assists, including a drive-and-dish to Hundal to make it 32-32.
Verhoeven later found Montano in the corner to pull Manteca within one, 36-35, setting up Hundal’s one and only assist.
“He’s a very underrated passer,” Lewis said. “He sees the floor really well. We could bring him out to the wing and he can distribute to guys. He’s just a special kid.”
Manteca 54, Turlock 45
Kyle Rachels scored 11 points and Zack Chamberlain had 10 as the Buffaloes won for the sixth time in eight games.
Gino Campiotti added nine and Kyle Reis had eight for Manteca, which host its Block M Tournament on Saturday.