Oakdale High’s varsity boys basketball team saw its Friday, Jan. 20 contest with Sonora postponed due to a power outage up the hill with the game now set for Saturday. And if the Mustangs’ previous four Valley Oak League contests have taught us anything, it’s to expect a battle.
Oakdale is 2-2 in its last four games, all decided by a margin of eight or fewer points. The team rebounded from a one-point loss to East Union by sneaking past Manteca in a 39-38 thriller at home on Jan. 17.
“In any close game every possession feels more valuable and important, but we have tried to stress the value of possessions all year long,” Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields said Monday. “Therefore our guards know the value of the ball and to take care of it, get us into our offense and find the best shot for our team.”
A missed shot doomed Oakdale in the final moments against East Union, but the squad converted a last second shot to beat Manteca four days later. Justin Martinez drilled a bank shot with just 2.8 seconds to play to seal the win.
“These one-point games do take a toll on me,” Fields joked. “Our kids have been composed and poised down the stretch of these close games, and have made big plays to keep us in it and create opportunities.”
Fields credited several big plays late in the Manteca game on Tuesday as creating the possession advantage that led to the win. Nathan Van Ryn took a charge to wave off a Manteca bucket in the fourth quarter, and watched as Vince Fauria drilled Oakdale’s only three-pointer and ensuing free throw (he was fouled on the shot) to close a five-point deficit with only two minutes remaining.
A few big rebounds from Martinez and some excellent play off the bench from Van Ryn, DeWayne Finney and Gerardo Esparza also created huge opportunities for the late Oakdale surge after Manteca’s 27-26 lead after three quarters.
Marcus Hernandez set up a pick-and-roll with Esparza and Martinez in the final moments of the game to snare the lead. Manteca’s desperation shot at half court was well defended and off the mark.
Martinez ended with 15 points to lead Oakdale scorers. Van Ryn (eight), Finney (six), Marcus Hernandez (four), Fauria (four), and Manny Hernandez (two) also found the bottom of the net. Oakdale (7-9 overall, 2-3 VOL) hosted Lathrop (10-8, 3-3) on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time. The Mustangs are at Kimball (8-11, 1-5) on Friday, Jan. 27 and Sonora (10-3, 3-2) on Saturday, Jan. 28.
“Our league is well balanced this season, every game is going to be a battle,” Fields said. “Moving forward we will continue to work and improve, and it is only these type of efforts that will allow us to continue to create opportunities for us to be successful.”