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Manteca has letdown after big win as Lathrop cruises to landslide victory
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Lathrop guard Robert Orantes goes to the basket strong Tuesday during the Spartans 60-43 win over Manteca High.

LATHROP – The first meeting between Manteca and Lathrop this season took place in the Tracy Tournament, with the latter pulling out a four-point win. On Tuesday the Spartans weren’t as nice.

Using an 11-2 run to close out the first half, Lathrop expanded on its lead in the third and cruised to a relatively easy 60-43 Valley Oak League win over the Buffaloes. Marcus Conley and Andrew Kovanis both finished in double figures and junior point guard Robert Orantes did a tremendous job controlling the game-tempo.

The Spartans got an emotional lift from senior Ricky Chavez, who returned to the team after a lengthy absence due to the death of his father, Pablo.

“What Manteca did to Weston Ranch Friday night proves that anybody can beat anybody on any given night,” Lathrop head coach Bill Slikker said. “The biggest thing for us is we haven’t had Ricky Chavez for three weeks for what is going on with his family, and for him to be at a funeral for his dad yesterday and come back and join the team, that was a real spirit lifter for us.

“Tonight, that win was for him and his family.”

The Buffaloes did not open clicking on the offensive end, but Lathrop was also struggling to get its consistency going offensively as well. With Lathrop up 18-16 the Spartans found their groove, scoring 14 of the next 20 points and never trailing after an early 8-7 deficit.

“Credit Lathrop, they did a great job defensively and we really took some bad shots,” Manteca head coach Dave Asuncion said. “We had bad shot selection and we really didn’t execute offensively.”

Manteca seemed unable to shake off the customary ill-effects that follow an upset win after the Buffaloes knocked off top-tier VOL program Friday. The 42-40 win over Weston Ranch at home against the Cougars may have proved detrimental to Manteca’s trip to Lathrop.

“We warned them at practice Monday when things were looking a little sluggish,” Asuncion said. “We let them know that a win Friday doesn’t help you at all on Tuesday. We were kind of concerned as coaches, but at practice we just kept challenging them, but we did look sluggish.”

The Buffaloes got 16 points from Ben Odell, and Nick Obazuaye chipped in with nine. Conley led Lathrop with 16 including four 3-pointers, and Kovanis helped seal the deal with eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. The Spartans never seemed to get out of sync offensively or defensively, thanks largely in part to the steady play of Orantes. The junior left little doubt as to which back court was most effective.

“I was just trying to help my team out the best way I can and play good defense,” Orantes said. “I don’t care about the scoring and stuff, I’m just trying to help the team get the win. I have so much respect for Coach Slikker and he has bestowed so much confidence in me, I just want to help us win.”