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Banged-up Buffs surge into third straight quarterfinal appearance
Manteca Highs Courtney Range reaches above Inderkum defender Anthina McCaskel to score two of her game-high 14 points in Tuesdays Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoff opener at Winter Gym. - photo by Photo By Sean Kahler

Inderkum and Courtney Range’s sprained left ankle didn’t keep Manteca High’s girls basketball team for winning a third straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoff opener at Winter Gym Tuesday.

Range, along with starting guard Jessica Hasal (concussion), did not start the game for the Buffaloes, who cruised past the 10th-seeded Tigers from Sacramento, 50-33. Both Hasal and Range were injured against East Union on Feb. 7, and they missed the team’s final two Valley Oak League contests.

Range led a balanced effort with 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. Jasmine Odell sparked the No. 7 Buffaloes with her energy and finished with 10 points and 12 boards. Point guard Mikayla Hasal facilitated the offense well, especially in the second half when Manteca (21-6) led comfortably 42-22 at one point in the fourth. Mikayla contributed 10 points, three assists and three steals.

“We executed well in the first half, but it seemed like we didn’t have the trust to run the play all the way through,” said Manteca coach Cody Norman. “When the first option wasn’t there we broke down, and having somebody like Mikayla and Courtney with the ball in their hands allows us to get away with it.

“At halftime we talked about some ‘Xs’ and ‘Os’ and defending their pick and roll better. Sealing up those areas was what helped us pull away.”

Norman also credited his reserves. Guard Brooke Mejorado and center Abigail Behler filled in admirably as starters in place of Jessica Hasal and Range. McKenna Balmut and Manveer Hundal were also key in limited minutes.

“Our starters get a lot of attention, but when they’ve been out I’ve had girls hungry to step up,” Norman said. “As a coach it is a luxury to go to your bench and be able to trust in them. They bring different tools to the floor — mainly defense, and that’s something we pride ourselves on and have built a foundation on.”

Inderkum (17-11), meanwhile, struggled find a groove throughout. Sakara Brewer, their top scorer at 15.2 points per game, was one of three Tigers to be held to six points Tuesday. Kyliah Daniel was effective in the post, but her seven points, eight boards and three blocks alone were not enough to keep them in the game.

“We did not play well,” Inderkum coach Phillip Hampton said. “I don’t know what to attest that to other than the fact that we’ve been up and down all season. Sometimes we shoot the lights out, and sometimes we come out play like we’re asleep. That was the case tonight.”

Manteca heads to Fairfield Thursday to face second-seeded Vanden (25-3) in the quarterfinals.