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Upset-minded Buffs hang tough in loss to Modesto Christian
Manteca point guard Mikayla Hasal wards off Modesto Christian defender Ashley Lucas with her free hand.

SALIDA – Manteca opened the fourth quarter trailing by 10, but the Buffaloes responded, to put themselves in position for the upset and a chance to cut the lead to two. The five-point deficit would be as close as they’d get in a 58-49 loss Thursday.

The Buffaloes had their chances in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III second-round matchup, responding to each of Modesto Christian’s runs over the first 28 minutes. Manteca (25-4) trailed by as many as 15, went into halftime down by a dozen, yet continually found a way to get back in the contest.

“We came into this game feeling that we were not going to lose,” Manteca senior Mia Ramirez said. “We came in knowing that we were going to give it our all and never stop playing. When we got close I was thinking we just needed to keep playing defense and not give up the 3s.”

Modesto Christian (24-5) opened the fourth quarter on a scoring drought, allowing Manteca to cut the lead to 42-37. With the Buffaloes opening the quarter in the double-bonus, the foul-line turned into their enemy and the Crusaders reaped the benefits of 11 second-half missed Manteca free throws.

“We just got focused at the end,” Modesto Christian head coach Rob Spencer said. “We never make excuses, but when the foul count is 9-3 in the first half and 10-1 in the second what can you do. It was a physical game; both teams competing hard; we got pushed and get no calls.

“So this was huge for us.”

No player played a bigger role in the win than MC freshman Ashley Lucas. Lucas hit three 3-pointers, all coming at timely moments with the final dagger doing the most damage. Lucas drained a 3-pointer to end Modesto Christian’s fourth quarter scoring drought. After her jumper, the Crusaders went on a 16-6 run.

The Buffaloes were led by Mikayla Hasal’s 10 points, Karleshea Thompson added nine points, while Jasmine Odell added eight. Kari Cherry gave Manteca quality minutes against a talented Modesto Christian front court.

“My girls left everything they had on the court,” Manteca head coach Andrea Hiatt said. “They play hard for me every single game, it doesn’t matter who we are up against; they play hard. I told my girls during the late time out, we’re right where we want to be, we’ve got this team scared.

“I am not disappointed at all; this has been a special year with a special group of girls.”