Led by senior guard Vince Thompson’s 15-points (including three 3-point baskets) Oakdale High’s varsity boys basketball team bested Oak Valley League rival Sonora by a score of 55-45 on Friday night.
The win improved Oakdale’s league standing to a 2-4 mark (11-6 overall).
Sonora won the opening tip-off and scored the first two points of the game, but Oakdale quickly rallied back with 10 unanswered points. The Wildcats came back with some solid shooting and good defense, leading to a 16-14 Sonora advantage to start the second period.
Several turnovers, Oakdale fouls and Sonora rebounds allowed the Wildcats to extend their lead to as much as eight points before the break. Oakdale, rallying behind the efforts of senior guard Jake Martinez and junior guard Manny Hernandez (nine points apiece) brought the score to within two points after two quarters of play.
The third period opened up with an even exchange of points, but Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields called a time out and broke the pace. Huddling his team together, he came up with a strategy to throw Sonora off balance. The Mustangs attacked the Wildcats with a strong full-court press, forcing the Wildcats into several critical turnovers and fouls. Thompson free throws, along with some strong moves to the basket by junior forward, Justin Martinez (eight points) and senior guard, Daniel Linder (eight points), the Mustangs quickly gained the lead and extended it. By outscoring the Wildcats 17-4 in the third, the Mustangs entered the fourth period with a 44-33 point lead.
Throughout the fourth, Oakdale mixed up their defense, keeping Sonora off-balance to maintain the late lead. Senior Blake Thompson and juniors Marcus Hernandez and Justin Martin each contributed with two points each.
In earlier action for the week, 14 free throws were attempted in the final 1:25 of Oakdale’s VOL engagement with host Manteca on Jan. 19. Only five of them were made, most of them by the Buffaloes, who took the lead with 6:13 left in the opening period and held on to win, 43-38.
What started out as a slow-paced, uneventful boys basketball game ended up being decided by a free-throw shooting contest.
“It was an ugly game,” coach Fields said. “It wasn’t like it was a huge defensive battle; it was just an ugly game.”
It was at its ugliest in crunch time, with both teams committing unforced turnovers and missing easy shots.
Oakdale had two opportunities to tie it within the final minute but couldn’t find a way to convert.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the basket; it’s as easy as that,” Fields said. “We had missed free throws, missed lay-ups (and) missed open jumpers. It’s not like we’re throwing away opportunities (with turnovers), but the ones we’re getting we’re not taking advantage of them.”
Manteca opened the fourth with a 7-0 run sparked by Taylor Hasal’s 3-pointer and capped by a wing jumper and two free throws from Gutierrez. At that point, the Buffaloes held a 34-26 lead, the game’s largest. Vince Thompson answered with a 3-pointer to get Oakdale back in it with 5:34 to go. Hasal and Thompson both finished with 10 points.
Oakdale center Jacob Martinez — who had 13 points and six rebounds — paced the effort for the Mustangs.
Oakdale sophomores soared into league play on the momentum of an incredible effort in the Oakdale Rotary Junior Varsity Classic, where they topped Grace Davis 41-40 to win championship honors.
League play hasn’t been quite so kind.
The Mustangs were 1-1 this past week, losing to Manteca and topping Sonora by 13 points to advance to 2-4 in the VOL and 13-5 overall.
“Right now we are just focusing on being a better team and growing as people,” Oakdale coach Chad Jackson said. “If we run the table in the second half of league, who knows what could happen.”
Jackson said Josh Watts has showcased some big-time hustle and is the emotional leader for the sophomore Mustangs. He also said Michael Adian has produced a terrific season from the start.
Manteca Bulletin reporter Jonamar Jacinto contributed to this report.