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Weston Ranch upends Manteca in crunch time
Rigo Gutierrez leads Manteca High in transition but is shadowed by Weston Ranch’s Dylan Alexander Friday at Winter Gym. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
After three quarters of play, the Manteca High boys basketball team held the lead, secured the momentum and had seemingly sapped the Weston Ranch Cougars of any possibilities of overcoming their 12-point deficit. After the Cougars opened the final period on a 17-4 run, it became evident that wasn’t the case.

The Cougars would not let up, stunning the Buffaloes in a 69-65 come-from-behind win Friday in Valley Oak League play. In a game that saw the Cougars open on a 9-2 run and the Buffaloes answer with a 20-11 run, it was the team that staged the game’s last run who ultimately decided it.

“I told the team at  the start of the fourth quarter that we haven’t been down going into the fourth in I don’t know how long,” Cougar head coach Ryan Bono said. “All it’s going to be is a pride factor. They had to decide if they had the heart of a champion or not.”

The Cougars (8-0 VOL, 17-2 overall) closed the contest on a 25-9 run, opening the scoring onslaught with a 3-pointer from E.J. Allen who had not tallied a point up until that shot. Allen was far from done, sinking another deep 3-pointer to put the Cougars up 64-62 with 2:13 remaining.

Melvin Allen embraced his role as the senior leader of Weston Ranch, scoring seven of the Cougars’ first nine points and leading the squad with 19 points, including seven in the pivotal fourth quarter.

“Personally, for me this game was really big,” Melvin Allen said. “I really like playing the Manteca teams and I really like to beat them. I don’t like to lose at all, but I really don’t like to lose out this way.

“We’re considered the underdogs, so when we’re on top we try to stay on top.”

The Buffaloes would find difficulty finding any faults in their game over the first 24 minutes. Manteca answered each run Weston Ranch could muster and looked to pull away for good with an intensified third-quarter defensive effort. Manteca erupted for 18 third quarter points while holding the Cougars to just eight, yet even the double-digit lead proved  not to be safe.

“We had the lead going into the fourth and you just really have to credit them,” Manteca head coach Dave Asuncion said. “They have good players and those great athletes stepped up and made the big plays for them.

“I think we came out in that quarter a little surprised with the lead. We’re a little tentative, playing not to give it away.”

Senior E.J. Godfrey led all scorers with a 30-point evening; he also pulled down six boards. The Buffaloes went to Godfrey in their final possession, but trailing 67-65 Godfrey was unable to get a shot to the rim as a host of Cougars responded to his drive and Daiveon Leverett got the key block.

“We came out and started the game well, but they were able to get the momentum and we kind of folded,” Godfrey said. “We can bounce back, we just have to work hard in practice. In our mindset we can compete with anybody.

“We just have to work harder.”

Ben Odell came out hot for Manteca leading the club with 14 first-half points, but was held scoreless the rest of the way. Matt Mueller added six points and 11 rebounds, while point guard Rigo Gutierrez added 16, all of which came in the first two quarters.

The Cougars got 13 rebounds and 10 points from Andre Beard and 12 points from Leverett.