Sierra prepares for every game the same no matter the opponent.
“That’s the mindset,” senior captain Bryson Sanders said. “Every game is a championship game, coach (Scott Thomason) reminds us every week.”
Only, Tuesday night’s intra-city showdown at Manteca High’s Winter Gymnasium didn’t play out like a championship game.
Really, none of the Valley Oak League games to this point have for Sierra, which continued the trend with a 52-39 thumping of the Buffaloes despite being held to just two points in the first quarter. The Timberwolves (5-0 VOL, 12-5 overall) twice led by as much as 20 points in the fourth before Manteca (3-2, 11-7) put together a late run.
“We just feel like we did what we were supposed to do tonight,” Thomason said. “We talked about how if you want to be a good team you upset a couple of people once in a while, and if you want to be a great team you beat the teams you’re supposed to beat and we feel like we did that tonight.”
The victory is the seventh straight for Sierra and every one of those wins were by double-digit margins with opponents scoring less than 50 points. Devin Nunez knocked down four 3-pointers and led all scorers with 16 points. Jonnythan Munkholm (12 points, seven rebounds) and sophomore Daniel Wyatt (four points) sparked the team off the bench, and Sanders (five points, five assists) quietly did what he always does.
“I don’t do any one thing too well but I can somewhat do everything,” the 6-foot-2 Sanders said. “As a team captain I try to get everyone ready for each game, keep everyone hustling and make sure there is no falloff in the second half.
“I do whatever needs to be done. I tell coach I’ll lose a tooth for a win. He calls me ‘warrior’ and I try to be one.”
The opening period was not for the faint of heart. Austin Haro splashed down a 3-pointer and later found T.J. Muhar open for an easy layup and a 5-0 Manteca lead with 3:51 to go.
Sierra, meanwhile, was 0 for 5 from the field with two turnovers on its first seven possessions. Joshua Patton broke the ice with two free throws with 1:35 left in the first.
“When you only up put five that’s not the best-case scenario,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “The best-case scenario is to put up 20 and to hold them to two.”
Different story in the second quarter, when Sierra outscored the Buffaloes 16-3, converted 8 of 9 from the field and beat the buzzer with Jordan Thomson’s lay-in off an entry pass from Sanders. The Timberwolves led 18-8 at halftime and didn’t look back.
“We didn’t panic, we kept on grinding one possession at a time,” Thomason said of the slow start.
Manteca center Michael Hatfield finished with 14 points and seven boards and completed a four-point play in the fourth after he was fouled on a made 3 attempt. Haro added 11 points.
The Buffaloes are now two games back of the league-leading Timberwolves along with Lathrop and Kimball. Weston Ranch trails by a game and a half.
“Too much time left to be worried about that,” Thomason said. “I didn’t know anything about the standings, to be honest with you. I just knew Manteca was going to be a tough game tonight and every game is a new challenge for us. We just gotta take care of business on Thursday.”
The Timberwolves will take their business back home Thursday for a date with Lathrop, while Manteca travels to Oakdale.
Sierra 45, Manteca 38
Ogun Delaney and Brian Terrell each had 10 points for the Sierra, which shook off a slow start to win the final three quarters.
Manteca was paced by Anand Hundal’s 16 points.
Sierra 43, Manteca 42
Sierra was ahead 19-11 at halftime and held on for the win. Parmvir Singh scored 13 points to lead the Timberwolves, and Jamille Grady drilled three 3s for the bulk of his 11 points.
Ryan Brock and Jose Garcia turned in 14 and 13 points, respectively for the Buffaloes (3-2, 6-12).