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Weston Ranch defense halts Manteca in crunch time
Manteca-Weston Ranch boys basketball
Manteca's Mehtaj Mehrok (15) and Weston Ranch's Darrion Lilly battle for the ball. - photo by Dave Campbell

STOCKTON – With 1:45 left in the game Friday night, visiting Manteca closed to within two points of Weston Ranch on a put-back by Justice Chase in what had been a contentious game in a playoff atmosphere.

But in the end, the Cougars defense came up with three key steals and scored the final eight points in a 77-67 Valley Oak League boys basketball victory.

The suffocating defense for Weston Ranch (9-1 VOL, 17-9 overall) forced 30 turnovers behind 27 steals while making just 21 rebounds. Cougars coach Nicholas Podesta credits his frequent substituting with his team’s constant pressure.

“We have a really young group, so we have to do a lot of teaching,” Podesta said, “We think that having guys play for shorter bursts allows them to play at maximum effort for the duration of the game and it allows us to do some teaching on the sidelines so they can get back in there and make the corrections.

“You tip your cap to Manteca. One thing Jason (Hitt) has always done is he gets his guys to play so hard. They go so hard at the glass and it’s very difficult to rebound against them. You are going to struggle with rebounding regardless of who you have on your team when you go up against Manteca.” 

The Buffaloes (6-3, 15-10) pulled down 26 rebounds, but the nagging pressure by Weston Ranch kept Manteca from mounting any sustained attack.

“Weston Ranch is playing too fast a pace for everyone in the league,” Manteca coach Jason Hitt said. “I did the same thing when I coached the Elliot Christian boys. You can’t have 30 turnovers and think you are going to be in it and yet we were in it with two minutes left to go. We should have been getting blown out by 25-plus. At the end of the game we missed four layups in a row and they went down and scored four times.

“Coach Podesta did a great job getting them prepared at home. It was a great job by their crowd packing the stands. I thought they had a really good crowd tonight.” 

Khristian Holmes was one of four Cougars in double figures with 18 points and he led his team with seven steals.

“Coach told us we get all of our offense off of our defense,” Holmes said. “So we play defense hard.”

Elliot Mobley added 16 points with five steals and five assists, with all of the assists coming in the second half.

“On defense I have to work hard for the team,” Mobley said. “We excel on defense.

“With the assists if I’m not going I can get my teammates the ball.”

Weston Ranch’s Elijah Mobley earned high-point honors with 19 points along with seven rebounds and four steals and Richard Banks added 15 points and four steals.

Justice Chase flirted with a double-double for Manteca with 16 points and nine rebounds. Noah Lyons added 16 points and four rebounds; Ryan Inderbitzin came close to a double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds; and Braden Nussbaumer chipped in 10 points. 

The Buffaloes play at Kimball on Monday and the Cougars travel to Kimball on Wednesday.

 

Junior varsity

Manteca 63, Weston Ranch 44

Evani Gaeta led the Buffaloes with 18 points.

Manteca’s Garrison Reis added 13 points and Peyton Nieman nine.

 

Freshmen

Manteca 75, Weston Ranch 28

Ruben Moreno scored 21 points for the Buffaloes.

Manteca’s Elijah Middleton put up a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.