The Manteca girls basketball team’s stumble to the finish line ultimately cost it a berth to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
One of two area squads keeping fingers crossed for an at-large berth, the Buffaloes found out Wednesday that their slim hopes of making it through were officially dashed. They placed fourth with an 8-6 record in the competitive Valley Oak League and are 16-11 overall, but losing four of their final five regular-season contests did them in.
Only the top three teams out of the VOL and Trans-Valley League automatically advance. At-large berths were available for teams ranked in the top 12 in Divisions I to IV and top eight in Divisions V and VI, according to MaxPreps’ section rankings.
Ripon Christian’s girls were the other wild-card hopefuls. Not only did they get an invitation to the dance in Division V, they were even awarded a first-round bye as the No. 4 seed in the 12-team bracket.
The section released the brackets via a live online show put on by the NFHS network Wednesday. The postseason begins Friday with out-bracket games, though none involve Manteca-area teams.
It’s ladies first next Tuesday with Weston Ranch (20-6) hosting the only game in the area. The fifth-seeded Cougars welcome No. 12 Rosemont (18-9) of Sacramento in Division III. East Union (19-7) travels to Auburn to face Placer (20-6) for a rematch of their opening-round contest won by the Lancers 53-49 at Dalben Center last year.
Ripon (15-12) secured its postseason berth on the final night of the regular season Tuesday and gets the 14th seed in Division IV. The Indians will square off with West Campus (18-6). Ripon Christian (14-7) won’t play until Thursday, Feb. 26 when it awaits the winner of No. 5 Millennium-No. 11 Western Sierra.
Three Manteca Unified schools are represented in the Division III boys field. Four-time defending VOL champion Sierra (25-2) is the third seed and opens next Wednesday with dangerous Fairfield (13-13), which upset Vanden 72-71 in their Solano County Athletic Conference finale. Vanden is the second-seeded team in this bracket.
Manteca (20-6) is seeded fifth after its runner-up finish in the VOL and hosts No. 12 Lincoln (16-11) of Placer County. Weston Ranch (17-10) is the visiting team of an interesting 8-9 matchup with Western Athletic Conference champion Central Valley (22-3). It was the Hawks of Ceres who stunned then-No. 6 seeded Sierra 60-43 in the first round last year.
Ripon (15-12) has the trek ahead among area teams starting out on the road, as the 13th-seeded Indians are set to tangle with the No. 4 Indians of Marysville (24-3). Ripon Christian’s boys, fresh off their first TVL title run since 2001, are seeded No. 1 in Division V. It will be No. 8 Forest Lake Christian or No. 9 Buckingham Charter that visits the Knights in the quarterfinal round on Feb. 27.
All semifinalists qualify for the CIF Northern California Regional Championships. The semifinals will take place March 3-4 at neutral sites, and the finals are set for March 6-7 at Sleep Train Arena.