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Lopez hot hand helps sink Sonora
Manteca forward Michael Hatfield (40) pulls up for a jump shot during Thursdays Valley Oak League game against Sonora. - photo by CHRIS LEONARD / <a href=>

With a once comfortable double-digit lead dwindled down to just three points, Manteca junior guard Miguel Lopez took matters into his own hands.

Lopez seared Sonora with 12 fourth-quarter points, including two 3-pointers in Manteca’s 56-46 Valley Oak League win Thursday.

After Manteca opened the contest looking the superior club, Sonora forced its way back into the contest, opening the second half on a 10-2 run. The Buffaloes, who only trailed only once at 1-0, needed everything Lopez contributed in Manteca’s most productive quarter of the win.

“I felt that we had to get it going in the fourth quarter because in the third you could tell that we were slacking a little bit,” Lopez said. “We started lacking intensity out there and I said to everybody that this team is beatable, we just to keep up our intensity.”

Manteca opened the contest on an 18-7 run, getting immediate offense from junior Austin Haro. He paced Manteca with 11 first-half points, connecting on a pair of 3-pointers including the first bucket of Manteca’s night.

Stephen Ruble (eight points) also contributed early, but after falling down by double-digits, Sonora (1-3 VOL, 5-12) narrowed the gap to 29-26, signaling to the Buffaloes that the contest would be decided in the fourth.

“When you shoot the ball a little better it makes the game easier,” Manteca head coach Dave Asuncion said. “We had a tough time stopping them the second half. They went to their horses inside and got going. We ended the second quarter kind of bad and it carried into the second half.

“They found a little weak spot in the defense and they exploited it.”

Sonora turned to its impressive front-court tandem of Ben Bates and Nick Mays. The pair combined for

26 points, including 18 in the second half.

However, Lopez was able to ward off any Sonora heroics, drilling the Wildcats for nine points in the final 3 1/2 minutes.

“I feel confident now,” Lopez said. “Last year I was confident, but I was not as confident. I just feel comfortable out there right now.

“I train every night to be in this position.”

Manteca (2-2, 9-7) will have its hands full next week with a three-game outlook, beginning with a matchup with defending VOL champion Sierra Jan. 15 on the road.