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Baker clutch for Manteca in 4th period
Ben Odell blocks the shot of Kimball’s Ivan Atchoukeu during a Valley Oak League contest at Manteca Hihg’s Winter Gym Wednesday. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Tim Baker saved his best for last.

With his Manteca High Buffaloes locked in a back-and-forth battle with visiting Kimball of Tracy to open the Valley Oak League boys basketball campaign Wednesday, Baker hit a 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining to increase the Manteca lead to five points.

After that, he and Taylor Hasal put on a free-throw shooting clinic — Baker went 2 for 2 down the stretch, and Hasal was 6 for 6, part of an 11-of-11 quarter — on the way to a 56-50 win for Manteca at Winter Gymnasium.

Manteca (1-0, 4-8 overall) is the VOL’s two-time defending champion, and Kimball (0-1, 7-7) is in its first year of varsity play.

“No. 10 (Baker) hit that big 3-pointer for them to put them up by five and that was huge,” Jaguars coach Joe Lawrence said. “And No. 3 (Hasal) did a nice job of hitting those free throws for them at the end of the game.”

Manteca jumped out to an 8-0 lead and then Kimball tightened the game up at 8-7. After that, there were six ties and six lead changes with no team leading by more than six points until the final period when the Buffaloes led 56-48.

“All the games in league are going to be close,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “Kimball is a good team and they are very athletic.

“We were able to close it out at the end by hitting free throws and with Baker hitting that 3-pointer.”

Baker finished with five points.

“I was wide open and ready to hit it,” Baker said of his clutch 3-pointer. “With that shot and the free throws at the end, confidence makes the difference.”

E.J. Godfrey (18 points, six rebounds) and C.J. Rivas (six points, 11 rebounds) controlled the paint for the Buffaloes. Hasal added 14 points and three assists.

“Rebounding is pretty much my thing to do,” Rivas said. “I just crash the boards, try to get rebounds and kick it back out. If I can, I will go back up with it. I try to be as physical as I can without getting a foul.”

Kimball’s Tyrell Brewer led all scorers with 21 points.