Rio Americano is a guard-oriented team that uses deadeye shooting, overall speed and unselfishness to overcome its deficiencies in the post.
It sure did to Manteca, the No. 5-seeded squad in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. The Buffaloes staved off another upset Friday, as they dispatched the No. 13 Raiders of Sacramento 64-58 at Winter Gym.
“We used a lot of the same game plan that we used for Weston Ranch,” Manteca sophomore Tydus Verhoeven said. “That team could shoot lights out.”
And who do the Buffaloes (22-6) get in the semifinals next Tuesday? None other than Valley Oak League rival Weston Ranch, which lost twice to Manteca in the regular season. In a tournament that had started with several shockers and near-upsets in the opening round, No. 9 Weston Ranch pulled off the biggest surprise Friday when it toppled No. 1 Christian Brothers, 63-52.
Round 3 of Manteca-Weston Ranch is scheduled for Tuesday at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, but a tipoff time has yet to be determined. On the other end of the bracket is four-time VOL champion Sierra, seeded third, and No. 2 Vanden.
“It’s going to be tough to beat one team three times,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “They’re good, man. They’re good. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
As if the first two opponents weren’t enough of a challenge for the Buffaloes. On Wednesday, Manteca erased a double-digit deficit to knock off No. 12 Lincoln 51-48. On that same night, Rio Americano stunned No. 4 Cordova, 60-58.
“We knew that they were not a 13 seed, they’re a very good team that got healthy at the right time,” Lewis said. “They hit a lot of shots and we were contesting them. We continued to tell our guys to weather the storm.”
Impressive point guard Matt Lyon, playing with a fractured leg, scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth to keep Rio in the game. Josh Parkinson added 17 points for the Raiders (16-12), and Shaun Dhillon fired 12 before fouling out late. The trio accounted for nine of its team’s 10 3-pointers.
Manteca was too much in the paint, however. Anand Hundal, who stands 6 feet, 8 inches, racked up 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Verhoeven, a 6-7 guard, had 12 points and 13 rebounds. The Buffaloes dominated the boards, 39-23.
“They were getting post position inside,” Rio Americano coach Chris Jones said. “They’d put the ball up and we couldn’t get the rebound because of their length. We tried to eliminate that but it hurt us.”
Many others had a hand in this win for Manteca.
Marcus Montano, who has been Mr. Clutch for the Buffaloes this season, poured in all 11 of his points in the final 8-plus minutes of the ballgame. He didn’t score until burying a 3 with 5 seconds to go in the third quarter, and he hit another from long range just 7 seconds into the fourth to give Manteca a 51-39 lead.
Frankie Lopez delivered with two 3s of his own and finished with nine points, while guard Ja’Juan Freeman (seven points) and forward Adrian Contreras (six points, seven rebounds) gave the Buffaloes a spark off the bench.
“It was huge,” Verhoeven said. “When you get that type of production out of your bench you’re a hard team to beat. I’m proud of how the bench played today.”
Manteca’s 12-point lead early in the fourth quickly evaporated. Rio Americano bothered Manteca with a trapping defense while Hundal was sidelined with an apparent injury to his right ankle. He returned to the floor with 3 minutes left.
Rio Americano twice cut the deficit to two, but Manteca sank nine of its final 12 free throws to pull away.
“When they switched up defenses it hurt us because they did it right when Anand went out,” Lewis said. “Anand is kind of the pressure-release valve for that and that’s when they made that run. We just held on tight and put those seatbelts on.”
He’s expecting another roller-coaster ride next Tuesday.
“We’re going to celebrate it tonight and when midnight comes we have to start thinking about who we’re going to play next,” Lewis said.