Manteca High girls basketball coach Cody Norman searched the sideline and scorer’s table for scissors.
Courtney Range limped about the court in slippers, sweats and a black hooded sweater.
And Jessica Hasal, the fast-action junior guard, wore street clothes, cheering on her teammates during the pregame Senior Night festivities.
The Buffaloes’ coronation party got off to a subdued start and the pace never recovered as the three-time Valley Oak League champions cruised to a 44-28 victory over Oakdale.
The win polished off a 14-0 run through the Valley Oak League, but it was hardly a cherry-on-top performance.
Manteca (20-6) went more than nine minutes without a field goal, made 5 of 16 from the free-throw line and struggled to distance itself from the league’s worst team.
Once it was over, friends and family spilled onto the court, but there was no ceremonial cutting down of the nets – a scene that played out at gymnasiums in Ripon the night before.
Instead, the Buffaloes disappeared into the locker room.
Norman never did find those scissors.
Not that he cared.
“There was definitely a different vibe out there,” said Norman, a first-year coach. His championship follows the two annexed by former head coach Andrea Hiatt.
“It still feels like it’s not real, because the intensity was so low. You know, our boys are in Oakdale right now fighting and sweating for a victory to get into the playoffs. Over here, we’ve had it clinched for a while.”
Mikayla Hasal had a game-high 16 points for Manteca, which played its second straight game without the Cal-bound Range (ankle) and the younger Hasal (concussion).
The Buffaloes’ supporting cast picked up the slack early on. Jasmine Odell scored seven of her 12 points in the first quarter and Mikayla Hasal knocked down a pair of step-back 3-pointers as Manteca raced out to a 19-4 lead.
Then the Buffaloes hit a lull, giving the Valley Oak League’s only winless team hope.
Oakdale (0-14, 3-23) opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run and held Manteca to just three points – all on free throws in the final two minutes.
“Oakdale came out,” Norman said. “We get everyone’s best game. Everyone wants to knock us off. They came out with a fire, but it was a steady fire. It wasn’t a punch, and our girls played into that.”
Christina Cobarruvias paced Oakdale with 11 points, while Janny Garcia finished with six.
The Mustangs closed to within 22-12 at the half, but Manteca secured the victory with a 10-1 spurt to start the third quarter.
Mikayla Hasal had six points in the flurry, Odell knifed through the lane, and Brooke Mejorado threw in a nifty hook shot to make it 32-13.
“It was a different energy with those two (Range and Jessica Hasal) out,” Norman said, “but the other girls stepped up and we didn’t really miss a beat.”
The Buffaloes will host a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III first-round game next Tuesday. They’ll learn their opponent on Wednesday, when the brackets are released.
The break comes at perfect time for Norman’s ailing bunch. He expects Range and the younger Hasal to be at full strength by the playoff opener.
He’ll also use the next six days to address his team’s motivation and strategy.
“Now we get to fine tune some things,” Norman said.
Oakdale 56, Manteca 49
Manteca trailed 38-33 going into the fourth quarter and got as close as one, but could never overtake Oakdale.
Alyssa Burch had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Buffaloes (5-8, 8-13), who struggled mightily from the free-throw line. Manteca was 7 of 27 from the charity stripe.
Chelsea Gomez had seven points and 10 rebounds and Chelsea Bruch had nine points.
Manteca 51, Oakdale 29
Manteca sealed its Valley Oak League co-championship with a 17-6 run in the second quarter.
Jade Griffin scored 11 points and Leah Manuleleua pulled down 12 rebounds for the Buffaloes, which finished 12-2 in league play and 19-3 overall.
Celina Burks narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
Shawntae Kidd chipped in eight points as Manteca outscored the Mustangs 32-10 in the second and third quarters.