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Goulart, Gary, Arroyo lights out in TWolves win over Buffs
Rebecca Wroten drives hard to the hoop. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Sierra High’s impressive 59-44 win over Manteca at Winter Gym Thursday night was a perfect example of how dangerous the Timberwolves can be when they are hitting on all cylinders.

Sierra was no less than brilliant in a second half that saw the T’Wolves outscore the Buffaloes 35-19, including a 20-8 fourth quarter surge in which Sierra played perhaps its best basketball this year.

The key for the T’Wolves, as has been the case all season, is the backcourt, where guards Natalie Goulart and Michelle Arroyo patrol the perimeter.

Goulart hit five 3-pointers on the evening to finish with 15 points, a game-high, and hit back-to-back-to-back triples during a pivotal fourth-quarter run that saw the T’Wolves extend a 43-40 lead at the five-minute mark to a 52-42 advantage with three minutes and change left.

“My shots weren’t falling early, but I just kept shooting,” Goulart said. “We had to shoot from the outside to get it inside. Inside we have some pretty tall girls matched up against theirs.

“This was a very important win for us. We started off 0-2, now we’re even at .500, so we’ve got to keep it going.”

Arroyo hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter, the first of which gave Sierra its first lead since the opening minutes, and played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls.

“That was good. (Arroyo) hung tough, she’s a great player,” Goulart said. “Our whole team played great. If we didn’t play as a team, we wouldn’t have done it.”

While Ariel McIntyre (9 rebounds), and Heather Scharmann (10 points) were their consistent selves in the post for Sierra, it was newcomer Mariah Gary that ultimately turned the tide of the entire contest.

Gary, all 5-feet, 3-inches of her, played like the biggest athlete on the court during a third quarter in which she scored eight of her 14 points, and set up Arroyo on her first triple of the frame.

“Mariah did a great job,” Sierra head coach Isaac Gutierrez said. “Mariah, when she’s ready to play, she plays. She can shoot, she can post up. I’m very proud of Mariah, she brings a great spark for us.

“Our guards are stepping it up now. We’re starting to play well because of (it). They’re hitting the three, they’re hitting the outside shot, they’re playing smart. I’m very proud of our guards, if it wasn’t for them, I’ll tell you what, there it is right there.

“That’s what we need.”

Manteca, meanwhile, was reeling after its third straight Valley Oak League loss, this one especially numbing because the Buffaloes let another second-half lead slip through their grasp.

The Buffs were extremely disciplined throughout, only turning the ball over 14 times to Sierra’s 24, and turning it over just once in the fourth quarter.

But foul trouble sent Cynthia Perez (6 rebounds, 5 offensive) and Davina Bennett (8 rebounds, 6 offensive) to the bench for extended stretches in the second half, causing Manteca to overcompensate in the post and leave shooters open around the perimeter.

“Losing both Davina and Cynthia hurt us,” Manteca head coach Andrea Hiatt said. “I realize both sides had foul trouble, but we’re small as it is. We need any height we can get out there. Cynthia and Davina were both working hard, I thought they played (Sierra’s post players) well.

“My girls play hard every single game, but missed assignments killed us in this game. Hopefully we wake up soon and recognize (our mistakes).”

Sharon Washington’s jumper at the 5:48 mark of the second gave Manteca’s its biggest lead at 16-9, and moments later, Morgan Salsedo (7 points) hustled back on defense and drew a crowd-igniting charge on McIntyre that had all the makings of a momentum-fueling moment.

But Goulart coolly sent home her second trey of the night seconds later, cutting the Buffs’ lead to two and sending notice that the T’Wolves didn’t make the trip across town to roll over.

“There’s no excuses,” Hiatt said. “Sierra beat us. They outplayed us when it mattered.”

Washington paced Manteca with 13 and Brianna Wallace added six.

Sharisse Atkins was outstanding on the glass for Sierra, hauling in seven rebounds, five alone in the second quarter.

Both Manteca (1-3 VOL, 8-9 overall) and Sierra (2-2 VOL, 7-6 overall) have huge weeks ahead starting Tuesday.

The Buffs travel to Weston Ranch before heading to the Dalben Center Thursday.

Sierra hosts EU Tuesday before welcoming the Cougars Thursday.