Oakdale’s boys basketball team was eight minutes away from securing its first Valley Oak League win of the season at Manteca High on Thursday, but the Mustangs were held to a single point for the final 7:59.
Manteca used a 17-3 closing kick to run away with a victory, 41-34.
Oakdale fell to 0-6 in league, 6-12 overall.
“Oakdale has players just like we have players — everybody in the league has players,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion said. “You have to come ready to play every game. There are maybe a couple of teams that can take days off, and we’re not one of them.”
DeWayne Finney accounted for Oakdale’s lone field goal in the fourth quarter with a breakaway layup at the buzzer. He led all scorers with 17 points, but it was the Buffaloes’ defense that was the difference in crunch time.
“We challenged ourselves defensively,” said Asuncion, whose squad improved to 3-3 and 10-8. “Instead of gambling and giving up easy buckets we wanted to keep them in front of us, pressure them and make them shoot over us.”
Miguel Lopez paced Manteca with 14 points, firing nine in the fourth. Austin Haro added eight points, and Michael Hatfield had seven points and nine rebounds.
The Buffaloes struggled to hit from the outside over Oakdale’s zone defense in the opening half but managed to lead 16-15 at halftime. But the Mustangs had all the momentum at the end of the third, when Austin Archuleta drained a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to give them a 31-24 cushion.
Manteca’s shooting drought continued into the fourth, but Oakdale — struggling with turnovers — couldn’t connect either. Lopez broke the ice with a layup at the 5:23 mark, and his wing jumper 40 seconds later got Manteca rolling. Brandon Dabney picked up a key steal that resulted in an uncontested lay-in, as the Buffaloes took the lead for good at 32-31 with 2:22 remaining. They scored 11 unanswered points before Gerardo Esparza sank the first of two free throws with 47.2 seconds left.
Manteca sealed it with six straight free throws while Oakdale’s woes continued. Finney had a chance to make it a 3-point game with 18 seconds to go but the ball rimmed out on his point-blank layup. A five-second infraction and lane violation on a Manteca free throw only made matters worse for the Mustangs in the final minute.
The Mustangs were still nursing a 54-46 loss to Lathrop on Jan. 15. The team would go on to fall 49-35 to league-leading Sierra on Jan. 19. Oakdale is at East Union to continue VOL play today, Jan. 23.