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Manteca rallies past Ranch
Buffaloes close with 19-2 run; take first place
Manteca High’s Jaqi Gutierrez hustles up the loose ball and starts the fast break with a pass from her seat during the Buffaloes’ 67-52 win over Weston Ranch.
WESTON RANCH – There seemed to be only one team poised to finish Thursday’s Valley Oak League battle between the top two programs alone in first place, until the Manteca High reinvented itself in the fourth quarter for a 19-2 run to stun the Weston Ranch Cougars 67-52 for a come-from-behind girls basketball win.

The Buffaloes made what turned out to be a major adjustment in the final quarter, ceasing Weston Ranch’s offensive productivity immediately. The Cougars went cold and the Buffaloes caught fire, distancing themselves for good when Mariah Navarro connected on a 3-pointer to put Manteca up 54-49.

“We went to our man (defense), and our man changed the tide of the game,” Manteca head coach Andrea Hiatt said. “Navarro hits that huge 3-pointer from the corner and that changed the tempo of the game right there.”

The Cougars could only glance at one another with blank stares, mustering just four free throws in the entire fourth quarter until April Seth converted on a meaningless layup win the game’s final seconds.

“They were able to hit a lot of shots and we got frustrated,” Weston Ranch point guard Timnesha Wilson said. “Our coach always tells us not to let our frustration get to us and that’s exactly what we did. They hit shots; we started to get lazy.

“They were a good team.”

Weston Ranch opened the game on a 9-0 run, pressuring the Buffaloes into four early turnovers. Manteca’s Sharon Washington converted on both attempts of a technical foul assessed to Cougar Jazmin Strane to pull Manteca within three, 11-8.

The Buffaloes took the lead for the first time of the contest midway through the second, but Weston Ranch responded with a 12-2 run to go back up 31-21. Washington sensed the urgency and promptly responded with seven consecutive points.

Washington’s tear got the Buffaloes going, and freshman Tia Tuuga showed poise beyond her years, finishing with 16 points, 11 coming in the second half.

“The last time we played them she didn’t play very well; she was in foul trouble the whole game and sat most of the game,” Hiatt said of Tuuga.

“She had something to prove to people, showing that she belongs on a varsity team, and she showed up.”

Weston Ranch (6-2, 12-7) got its usual dominant performance from Wilson who led the team with 22. Teammate Emoni Wilson, provided a dozen, while Strane provided nine points and seven boards.

Washington led all scorers with a 23 points, and sophomore point guard Mikayla Hasal finished in double-figures with 10 while doing an excellent job playing floor general for Manteca.

Weston Ranch will try and put the loss behind them and move forward towards its postseason aspirations. The Cougars will get a good rebound game, hosting league cellar-dweller Oakdale Tuesday.

“This is all unchartered territory for us,” Bauer said of this year’s group. “If we could have won we’d have been in first place all by ourselves. We beat East Union and we came in here to meet with Manteca and it was a dogfight.

“We have six more games and we’re going to have to come out and be ready for those six.”