STOCKTON — What a difference 10 minutes can make.
Manteca took momentum and a four-point lead over host Weston Ranch at halftime on Tuesday only to be outscored by the Cougars 16-4 in the third period behind 11 Elisabeth Alexander points on the way to a convincing 52-38 Valley Oak League win for Weston Ranch.
With three games left in the VOL season the Cougars are 10-1 in league play (19-4 overall) and in second place, three games in front of the Buffaloes (15-9 overall) and East Union who both have 7-4 league records and square off Thursday at Winter Gymnasium.
Alexander led all scorers with 28 points and balanced out her performance with nine blocks, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists.
“In the second half they got frustrated,” Alexander said. “Especially if we would steal the ball.
“We know there are going to be higher-level teams in the playoffs and we are going to have to step it up to get ready for them.”
Teammate Victoria Gulley scored eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter and had a double-double with 11 rebounds.
“In the second we decided to play as a team and shared the ball,” Gulley said. “We may have been down but we never gave up on each other.”
Weston Ranch led 11-4 after the first period but stalled in the second quarter, trailing 19-15 at halftime.
“It was one of those games where we came out up-tempo and executed well in the first quarter,” Cougars coach Chris Bauer said. “But in the second quarter we slowed down and got into their game and what they wanted to do which was slow it down and grind it.
“At halftime our challenge was to get the girls to get the tempo back up and run and get a little pressure. We were able to get a run on them in the third quarter and we were able to extend that and keep it going. The kids did not quit or get frustrated when they were down and battled back. That is the first time we have been down and battled back to get the lead.”
Weston Ranch ended the third period on a 15-0 run.
“We lost our intensity in the second half,” Buffaloes coach MaryAnn Tolbert said. “We looked tired and we didn’t execute well. We had planned for that press and then they came out and threw it on us and that forced us to play around far too much in the back court.
“We looked like a completely different team in the second half. It was not the team we went into halftime with.”
Loretta Kakala was impressive in defeat for Manteca, scoring 24 points and grabbing 23 rebounds while blocking two shots and making two steals.
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The Buffaloes held the Cougars to two first-quarter points and Weston Ranch never recovered.
Manteca’s Sierra Leyba led all scorers with 19 points and JJ Santo chipped in 15. Nicole Bigornia led the Cougars with 13 points.
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The Buffaloes withstood a late charge from the Cougars for the win.
Manteca’s Jasmine English led all scorers with 14 points and teammate Juliann Eavenson added nine points.
Franni Pollard and Justice Stitts had nine points apiece for Weston Ranch.