In time, the Manteca High basketball team may compete with the big boys of the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Tuesday wasn’t one of those nights.
The Buffaloes ventured into the northern half of the section to face Liberty Ranch, but a pair of third quarter dunks ignited the home crowd and created the separation in a 68-56 loss.
Six-foot-5 forward DeAndre Stallings scored 25 points, many on contested jumpers, and Jordan Windley had 22 for the Hawks, now 8-1. Stallings and Windley played key roles as sophomores on a team that reached the Division IV final two years ago.
On Tuesday, the dynamic duo chased Manteca with 17 combined points in the third quarter.
“Good players are going to play,” Manteca High coach Brett Lewis said, “so you have to shut down the rest of the team.”
The Hawks built their lead over the middle quarters, outscoring the Buffaloes 39-27 during that 16-minute stretch. Consecutive dunks in the third quarter ignited a raucous home crowd, jarring the Buffaloes for a few minutes and forcing Lewis to burn a timeout.
“Their crowd was freaking insane. It was an awesome environment; a playoff environment with Sacramento refs,” Lewis said. “We told the guys, ‘We have to win on the road (in the playoffs) with their refs.’ “
Anand Hundal paced the Buffaloes with 16 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots. Marcus Montano netted 12 points and Tydus Verhoeven had 11 as Manteca lost for just the second time in eight games.
The Buffaloes committed 18 turnovers and gave up 18 offensive rebounds, despite owning the height advantage.
You can’t give a playoff caliber team — with those kinds of weapons — extra opportunities to score, Lewis said.
“If we clean those things up, if we cut them in half, we might be talking about a win right now,” Lewis added. “This was a good game for us to play in. We learned a lot from it.”
Manteca faces another stiff test in Merced during opening-round action at the Cosumnes Oaks Tournament on Thursday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
Sonora 71, Lathrop 57
In Lathrop, the Spartans’ home debut began with such promise.
Lathrop pieced together one of its finer opening half performances and held a 32-30 lead over its former Valley Oak League opponent at the intermission, but couldn’t escape its seventh straight loss to open the season.
Sonora outscored Lathrop 41-25 over the final two quarters.
“We quit playing basketball,” Spartan head coach Nate McGrath said. “Our first half was one of the best we’ve played as a team in quite some time, but boy, it all fell apart quickly in the second half.”
Isaiah Ellis poured in 24 points and Avraj Bal chipped in 10 for the winless Spartans, but the silver lining was reserve Dashawn Kelley.
The junior buried all three of his 3-point attempts in the second half to finish with nine points. McGrath raved about his energy and fearlessness off the bench.
More minutes may be in Kelley’s future.
“He comes in and plays hard regardless of the amount of minutes he gives me,” the second-year coach said. “He went and did his job and he wasn’t afraid to shoot. A lot of my guys right now, especially my juniors, are gun shy.”
Liberty Ranch 74, Manteca 59
Ascari Johnson was one of three Buffaloes to score in double digits with 15 points. Jose Garcia and Eddie Santos each had 12.
Manteca, however, could not overcome a 27-point effort from Liberty Ranch’s Patrick Roberts.
Lathrop 48, Sonora 44
Michael Mills led the Spartans with 13 points and was complemented by Idowu Olaleye’s 10 in the win.
Sonora 55, Lathrop 43
Early foul trouble stunted the Spartans after they built a 13-8 lead. Sonora led 26-21 at halftime and never looked back.
Michael Ballard poured in 13 points and four assists for Lathrop. Dan Ballesteros added 11 points and three steals.