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First-year Manteca, Ripon coaches square off in Foundation Game
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Ripon head coach Rick Inderbitzin chats with his team during a timeout in Mondays Foundation Game with visiting Manteca. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

RIPON — It was a full-circle moment for Ryan Bono, who coached his first game for Manteca High’s girls basketball team on Monday.

On the other end at North Gym stood Rick Inderbitzin, the man who gave him his first coaching gig at the varsity level.

The student beat the master on this occasion, as Bono’s Buffaloes held off a spirited late-game charge from Ripon to come away with a 56-52 win. 

The slate remains clean for both teams since this was a Sac-Joaquin Section Foundation Game, which doesn’t count against records. Money earned from admission sales at Foundation Games benefit the section’s A. Dale Lacky Scholarship and Women in Sports Conference. 

Both coaches are starting anew after previously sharing the sideline at East Union. Inderbitzin was varsity girls head coach at his alma mater for six years (2000-05), compiling a 92-68 record while going out with a Valley Oak League championship in his final season there. Bono served as one of his assistants from 2000-02. Current East Union head coach Jim Agostini was also an assistant for Inderbitzin at the time.

“It was fun,” Bono said. “This year will be fun. I got to coach against Rick and later on I’ll get to coach against Agostini. 

“I was extremely young and wet behind the ears when he took me on. I learned a lot from him, not only how to coach but to mean more to the players than being just their coach and teaching them more than just about basketball. If I can do half as good a job of that in however many years he has been coaching I’ll be happy.”

Bono left East Union and went to Weston Ranch when the South Stockton campus opened in the fall of 2003. There, he coached at the lower levels for the Cougars’ boys basketball team before taking the reins at the varsity level for four years, going 80-34 with a VOL championship in 2011.

Three years later, Bono landed a spot on Manteca’s varsity boys basketball staff with Dave Asuncion. Last season he was the right-hand man for current coach Brett Lewis in the Buffaloes’ run to the CIF State Division III title.

“I was going to retire after winning the ring,” Bono said. “I talked to my kids (13-year-old Alicea and 8-year-old Devin) and they were disappointed I was going to stop coaching. It’s not just on them; I wanted to give it one more run. 

“When I left head coaching it wasn’t under the best of circumstances. It was fun being an assistant coach, but after doing this for about 17 years I figured it was time to give it another run. I remember how fun it was coaching on the girls side, they’re like sponges. These are really neat young women and I’m glad I took over.”

Bono inherits a talented team that was the runner-up to East Union with a 19-10 overall record under MaryAnn Tolbert. Leading the way is 6-foot-3 Louisville signee Loretta Kakala.

Even though Monday’s game is essentially an exhibition, Bono admitted he was nervous for it.

“I haven’t had butterflies like this in a long time,” he said. “I don’t think I was nervous before the state championship game. I don’t know what it was. I wasn’t nervous until I got into the locker room and it hit me that it’s my team again. Once the ball went up it was gone.”

For Inderbitzin, it was a reunion in many more ways. Playing for Bono are his niece Sarah Inderbitzin and Kacy Bolding, whose father is close friends with the Ripon coach.

“I’ve known Kacy since she was born,” coach Inderbitzin said.

Former Ripon coach George Contente was in attendance. Contente, who guided the Indians to three Trans-Valley League crowns in his 11 years — is also part of Inderbitzin’s coaching tree having been one of his assistants in the 2000s. 

Inderbitzin, a Ripon resident, remains a teacher at East Union. Kakala, who transferred to Manteca from East Union following her freshman year, was one of his students.

“She’s a great kid,” Inderbitzin said. “When she walked in she gave me a hug right away. As a former student of mine it’s nice to still have that connection. It was a good, family atmosphere. There were a lot of people I know in the stands.”

The East Union connection runs deep here. Former East Union lower-level coaches Adrian McDaniel and Rich Posz are now leading Ripon’s freshman team, and Mark Guzman — an EU grad who has also coached for Oakdale — directs the sophomore squad along with 2001 East Union graduate Cassie Medeiros, one of Inderbitzin’s former players. Former Ripon standout Danielle Wells remains on the staff as varsity assistant.

Inderbitzin was Ripon’s freshman coach the past two seasons, winning back-to-back league titles. He had no desire to return to the varsity ranks as head coach but said there was little interest when the job opened up. His daughters — junior Janessa and freshman Kelsey — are part of the program as players and urged their father to step in. The rest of the players gave him their blessing. The other coaches also backed him.

“It’s different for me having been at East Union for so long and helping with that program, but it’s exciting in a way, too,” Inderbitzin said. “George did such a great job and it’s hard to fill those shoes, but we knew we were going to have a great group of kids coming in along with a great staff. It just seemed like it was a perfect fit.”