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Manteca reaches 1st SJS final since 2000
Buffaloes use 12-0 burst to separate from 11th-seeded Wood
Wood-Manteca girls basketball
Manteca’s Taimane Tu’uga (right) tussles with Wood’s Sa’nyah Stewart for the ball. - photo by Wayne Thallander

No Arco Arena this go around.

The last time the Manteca girls basketball team made a trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section finals was nearly a quarter of a century ago when the Buffaloes won the title in 2000 at Arco Arena.

Second-seeded Manteca is going back to the show, and thanks to Monday night’s 45-36 semifinal win over visiting No. 11 Wood, this time it will be at Golden 1 Center for the Division III title on Wednesday morning at 10 against top-seeded Vista del Lago.

Wood-Manteca girls basketball
Manteca’s Jada Ikharo (23) shoots over Wood’s Tianna Palmer (10) - photo by SEAN KAHLER
“I have been playing basketball since I was in second grade,” Manteca senior Izzy Sanchez said. “And to know that on Wednesday I am going to play on an NBA court at Golden 1 – something I have dreamt about going to – is so exciting. This experience is so surreal and I can’t wait to play that game.

“I know we are all going to play our hearts out. We have been working all season for this and this is the moment that we have been waiting for.”

Sanchez (three steals, assist) notched a double-double with 15 rebounds to go with her 12 points.

The Buffaloes (25-6) struggled against the Wildcats (19-12) of Vacaville until late in the third period when Manteca, leading by one point, went on a 12-0 blitz started with a short jumper by Jada Ikharo, capped by Brea Vieira’s second 3-pointer of the run and fueled by the tenacious defense of Kalaja Reese.

Following Ikharo’s jumper, Reese got a bucket on a put-back, took a steal coast to coast for a layup and on the ensuing possession forced a travel for a turnover, helping the Buffaloes to a 37-27 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t know what to expect with her (Reese) coming into this year,” Manteca coach Oscar Calix said. “Once she got that mindset right that she could play defense, she became a game-changer on the defensive side and she makes her offense easy by forcing turnovers.

“She is a big piece for us moving forward.”

Reese (five steals) shared high-point honors with Sanchez, scoring 12 points.

“I just wanted to win,” Reese said. “I want to go to Golden 1.

“It has never happened before, so I just gave it my all.”

Ikharo scored just five points, but her 13 rebounds helped the Buffaloes to a resounding 53-28 advantage on the glass.

“I know that my shots weren’t really falling,” Ikharo said. “So, the best thing I could do to make up for that is to hustle on defense, get boards, and help out my team in any way that I could.”

Michailla Springs (seven points) and Jaesha Dunn (two points) added eight rebounds apiece for the Buffaloes with five rebounds each for Vieira (six points, two blocks, assist) and Taimaine Tu’uga.

Andrea Howard led Wood with 11 points.