Brijanee Moore visited her old stomping grounds Friday night and did not disappoint in her much-anticipated return.
The highly-recruited point guard played her second game for Weston Ranch, and she competed against former teammates from her elementary school days at Manteca High’s Winter Gym. Moore flashed her otherworldly talents in the 75-61 win for the Cougars, finishing with 18 points, 11 steals, seven steals, six assists and two blocks.
Moore lifted Golden West Elementary School to the Manteca Unified Student Trust girls basketball title as an eighth grader back in 2011. Some of her current teammates, such as Elisabeth Alexander and Teresa Haley, came up on the short end of that championship game while playing for August Knodt.
Moore began her prep career at St. Mary’s of Stockton and transferred to Weston Ranch last year. CIF transfer rules forced her to sit out the first half of her senior season.
“It was fun,” Moore said of her return to Manteca. “The crowd motivated me a lot. I thought I did OK but I thought I could have done better. I liked playing against my old teammates, though.”
And Moore’s new teammates seem to like playing alongside her. She’s the true point guard that Weston Ranch (2-0 Valley Oak League, 11-2 overall) had lacked over the first month-plus of the season, but coach Chris Bauer said her presence alone has boosted the Cougars in other ways.
“It’s her demeanor and how she carries herself,” Bauer said. “As the younger kids say it, it’s her swag. She gives us that confidence and the kids know that if they can get to where they’re supposed to be they’ll get the ball. She talks to them and helps them understand that; it’s like having another coach on the floor. She takes the pressure off everyone else.”
Patricia King and Alexander were instrumental in Weston Ranch gaining separation in the second half. Alexander topped all scorers with 23 points and drained four of her five second-half 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. King pumped in 14 of her 18 points over the final two periods.
“They did a great job of cheating out on (Alexander) in the first three quarters,” Bauer said. “Like I told her at half, ‘You’re a shooter and shooters shoot the ball.’ I think two or three fell in a row and she had that little pep in her step.
“Patricia King was also huge in the second half. We won by nearly 15 points but it was a battle. It was back and forth all night.”
Manteca (1-1, 9-6) didn’t fold after going down by as much as 20 early in the fourth quarter. Alexander hit two straight 3s from the left wing to push Weston Ranch’s lead to 61-41 with 6:45 remaining. The pace quickened down the stretch as both teams took turns scoring off quick shots in transition.
The Buffaloes answered with an 8-0 run powered by Loretta Kakala, Leah Manuleleua and Lejla Pepic. The 6-foot-2 Kakala was slowed by foul trouble but still managed to pile up 20 points and 14 rebounds. Manuleleua had 12 points and nine boards, and Pepic finished with eight points.
Manteca handled Weston Ranch’s full-court pressure better as the game wore on but committed 21 turnovers in the first half. Six of those giveaways came in the first 2 minutes of the contest.
“We knew the pressure was going to come and we practiced our press breaker,” Manteca coach MaryAnn Tolbert said. “When we got past that it looked good, but when we put the ball on the ground and tried to dribble it’s not going to work. We also tried to go across court and (Moore) was right in the middle, and she was excited when we threw it across the court.
“Considering how young we are I think we played a great game. You take 24 (Moore) out of the mix and we’re right there.”
Weston Ranch 32
J.J. Santos paced Manteca with 18 points, while Selena Hoang turned in 14 for the Weston Ranch. The Buffaloes outscored the visiting squad in each of the final three quarters to pull away.
Weston Ranch 57
Sarah Inderbitzin tallied a game-high 20 points as the Buffaloes handed Weston Ranch (0-1, 5-1) its first loss of the season in Friday’s overtime thriller.
Rhiannon Genilla added 12 points. Julianne Eavenson and Aliza Teixeira each had nine.
Jaylah Evans collected 10 points and 10 steals for the Cougars. Inesja Lomax contributed 12 points, and Justice Stitt had 11.