Manteca junior Chelsea Gomez was all over the hardwood Wednesday night.
The Buffaloes’ 5-foot, 5-inch guard finished with a game-high 18 points, 22 rebounds and three steals.
Gomez’s individual effort wasn’t enough to help the Buffaloes overcome a 50-44 defeat at Winter Gym against Sonora, which used a 20-9 fourth-quarter run and a key 3-pointer from junior Bailey Henington to improve to 2-1 in Valley Oak League play, 8-5 overall.
“That was a huge momentum swing right there,” Sonora head coach Amy Santos said of Henington’s 3-ball. “That was definitely huge. (Manteca) was pretty strong and I knew we would be evenly matched.
“(Coach Cody Norman) always has them prepared, so we knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
Manteca (1-2, 4-12) trailed by four after the first quarter, but then went on a 16-11 run to close the half and take a one-point lead into the locker room.
The Buffaloes continued to pour it on in third quarter, outscoring the Wildcats by four to take a 35-30 lead into the final frame.
During the third stanza, Gomez recorded seven consecutive points and Elizabeth Tolbert capped a 9-0 run that put Manteca in front 33-28 after it trailed by four.
Sonora junior Sandra Renda ran a pick-and-roll to Leah Dambacher, which made it a three-point game after finishing. Gomez ended the quarter with her ninth point of the frame.
“They scrapped with (Sonora),” Norman said of his squad. “They’re a good team and they’re going to execute their plays. They’re not going to make turnovers, they’re going to pressure you – which they did and they ran their game plan perfectly. We’re still searching for our identity.”
The Buffaloes were flustered by Sonora’s full-court pressure, which caused Manteca to force passes and turn the ball over frequently.
In the fourth quarter, after Henington hit the go-ahead trey with 2:19 left in regulation to make it 42-40, Manteca turned the ball over on the next possession and Sonora’s Shea Stead made a free throw to make it 43-40.
The Buffaloes, who missed seven of their last nine free-throw attempts in the final two minutes, never regained the lead. Henington netted Sonora’s last five points of the game, which included three free throws and a field goal off a coast-to-coast drive that was ignited off a steal.
Henington finished with 13 points, one assist and four steals, while sophomore forward Michelle Reis tallied 16. Reis also had six rebounds and went 12 of 19 from the free-throw line alone. Sonora went 23 of 39 from the stripe as a team.
Manteca’s second-leading scorer was Jessica Hasal (11 points), who also had two assists and hauled in six rebounds. Tolbert tallied seven points, five steals and pulled in seven boards.
Abigail Behler scored three points and had eight rebounds for Manteca, while Allison Rachels had five points with six rebounds, a block and a steal. Mildred Perez registered eight rebounds.
“We’re having girls step up,” Norman concluded. “They may not look fundamentally sound, but they’re making plays. We made plays to get to the basket and get free throws, but then we’d make a bad pass or miss a free throw or something along those lines. Again, that comes with our inexperience.”
Manteca will host Kimball Tracy on Friday at 7:15 p.m. at Winter Gym.
Manteca 52, Sonora 37
Leah Manuleleua led the Buffaloes (3-0 VOL) with 13 points and Rubel Dehal finished with 12. Jade Griffin netted 10 and Aryanna Martinez finished with nine as Manteca outscored the Wildcats 19-7 during the final eight minutes.