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MUSDs Manteca, Weston Ranch battle for section banner tonight
SJS Division III ADV file 1
Manteca guard Dwight Young hoists up a 3-pointer over Vista del Lagos Luke Avdalovic during Wednesdays Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal at Galt High. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan didn’t want to get too excited after his team’s first of two wins over Manteca.

“Means nothing,” he said. “We lost to them twice last year and we beat them when it mattered. The same can come back and happen to us.”

That was back on Jan. 15 when Teevan’s Cougars overcame foul trouble and a 10-point deficit in the second half to edge Manteca, 72-68. Two weeks later, Weston Ranch squeaked out a 67-62 win at Manteca and continued its march to a perfect finish in the Valley Oak League.

Tonight, the Buffaloes get their opportunity to exact revenge. More importantly, they and the top-seeded Cougars are battling for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship at Sleep Train Arena. Manteca (25-5) is gunning for a second section title — the 1987 team captured the Division II crown — in its fourth final-round appearance. Weston Ranch (26-4), riding a 15-game winning streak, is hoping the third time’s the charm after falling short in two previous finals.

“That’s what we wanted, honestly,” Manteca guard Dwight Young said Wednesday night after he fired a game-high 26 points in the No. 3 Buffaloes’ 74-58 semifinal win over Vista del Lago at Galt High. 

“We’ll get our revenge, hopefully, and we’ll get to play them again at ARCO.”

Manteca has lost three in a row to Weston Ranch, which avenged two double-digit losses in league with a surprising 61-41 thrashing of the Buffaloes in the semifinal round last season. Tonight’s rematch will mark the second straight year that two Manteca Unified schools will duke it out for the coveted section banner.  Then the No. 9 seed, Weston Ranch made an improbable run to the final but was vanquished by Sierra, 67-51.

Weston Ranch swept the reigning champion Timberwolves in league, and after doing so Teevan said that the Cougars’ biggest rival helped set the standard for this year’s squad.

“The reason Sierra is such a great program is because they do it when it matters,” he said following the Ranch’s 65-46 drubbing at Sierra on Feb. 12. “I’ve been to a section semifinal and a section final, but you have to win it when it matters.

“I vividly remember when we played them in the section finals last year; Jaelen (Ragsdale) said that was the most locked in he’s ever seen a team. We need to get to that point. We try to model ourselves after what they’ve been able to do.”

Ragsdale, a stellar point guard heading to Stanislaus State along with teammate Fred Lavender, has shined brightest in big games for Weston Ranch. He scored 20 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter of the Cougars’ first victory over Manteca, and in Wednesday’s 73-61 triumph over No. 4 Placer he exploded for 32. D’Angelo Finley amassed 28 points and made the clutch baskets in the second meeting with Manteca.

 “Both of those games have been so close,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “I don’t think we have to do too much differently, we just have to put a solid game together. We don’t feel like both times we played them that we played great, but I bet if you ask them they’ll say the same thing. It’ll be fun. We’re excited. Hopefully we can get them like they did to us last year.”