Dwayne Davis may as well be called “Mr. Lathrop.”
He can also be called champion.
On Tuesday, he led Lathrop High to its first-ever Valley Oak League championship — in any sport — with a 56-37 victory at Manteca, which officially passed the crown as the reigning titlist.
Davis has lived in Lathrop since 1997 and began coaching at the school when it opened 10 years ago, first as an assistant on the football staff, then track and boys basketball before taking over the varsity girls hoops program in the 2014-15 season.
“Personally, I’m very proud, but I never want to make it about me,” he said. “I don’t ever want to be out front, I’m comfortable being in the back doing the grinding for the kids and with the kids. I’m proud for the school and the community.
“Everybody needs something to rally around and hopefully this is it. From sport to sport we’ve been good, but now the kids don’t have to just think about making it. We’ve made it.”
And he has no problem sharing the school’s first championship. Kimball defeated East Union 72-55 on Tuesday to secure its half of the title — the Jaguars’ third in eight varsity seasons.
“From where we came from to where we are now, it doesn’t matter — a championship is a championship,” Davis said. “Split it? So what. These kids have put in some work, and I have been on their butt for four years and told them it’s undeniable where we are going to end up, they just had to believe and stick to it. Not only are they great basketball players, they are great kids. I am so proud of them and the school.”
Manteca (9-5, 17-10 overall) made Lathrop (13-1, 20-5) work for it, at least at the start. The Spartans won the first meeting far more decisively 61-30, and it was all but over by halftime.
On Tuesday, Manteca fell behind 7-0 as it started five seniors. The Buffaloes never led but were able to close to within one on three occasions. They trailed 30-25 at halftime, but Lathrop put it away with a 20-5 third-quarter run in which it forced eight turnovers.
“We were passing the ball well, reading their defense, they were overplaying and we were hitting backdoor (cutters) and getting easy buckets,” Manteca coach Ryan Bono said. “Defensively, I thought we did pretty well even though we gave up 30.
“In the third quarter we let them get into transition and turned the ball over. That was obviously the difference. We stopped doing what worked, but tip your hat to Lathrop. They made adjustments defensively at halftime and that’s what championship teams do.”
Khiya Thornton highlighted Lathrop’s backbreaking third quarter, scoring nine of her 16 points. She also finished with six rebounds and three assists. Myani Thornton led all scorers with 17 points to go with six steals. Semajynique Steen had nine points and seven boards. Mary Cotton contributed eight points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
Kyaira Jacobs led Manteca with 11 points.
Lathrop plans on celebrating its historic championship with the traditional net cutting after tonight’s boys basketball home game against Manteca.
“Since freshman year we set the goal for ourselves to get that banner and we finally did it,” said Myani Thornton, one of nine Spartans seniors. “We just proved we can compete in this league. Even though we are moving we’ll always have this.”
Lathrop is moving to the Western Athletic Conference next year.
Manteca is also likely headed to the postseason. It ends the regular season in a third-place tie with rival East Union, and a coinflip will determine which squad gets the third and final automatic berth. Manteca can get in with an at-large berth regardless of the outcome. The top 12 teams who don’t advance with automatic bids in the final MaxPreps Sac-Joaquin Section Division III rankings move on, and the Buffaloes were at No. 7 going into their league finale.
Manteca 42, Lathrop 22
The Buffaloes (25-0) wrapped up a perfect season and were led by Jaslyn Woods’ 28 points, seven rebounds and four steals.