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Senior Night Success For Lady Mustangs
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The varsity Lady Mustangs celebrate their victory, and senior teammate, Christina Cobarruvias, center, after Tuesday nights 39-33 season finale victory over Manteca. Dennis D. Cruz/The Leader

It was a rough season for head basketball coach Justin Schwitters and the varsity Oakdale Lady Mustangs. In what got off to a promising start, winning five of their first six and going 11-5 throughout the first 16 games, including winning two Valley Oak League games (0-23 previously since 2012), things took a turn for the worse and the team members found themselves on a 10-game skid heading into Tuesday’s season finale on Feb. 18. During the skid, Oakdale lost three of those games by four points or less, staying competitive but unable to nail down the wins.

The Lady Mustangs looked to put an end to their losing ways and close out the season on a positive note with a win on Senior Night against the visiting Manteca Lady Buffaloes, which they accomplished with a 39-33 decision. Manteca has fallen on hard times as well, losing four in a row heading into Tuesday night’s game. Manteca earlier defeated Oakdale 51-39 on Jan. 28 in Manteca.

Prior to tip off, the team, with the help of the Lady Mustang faithful, held a ceremony for lone senior Christina Cobarruvias. She was escorted to center court by her parents Philip and Maria Cobarruvias where she was presented with a lookalike bobble head in her image by Coach Schwitters and assistant coach Murril Esparza. Her friends also greeted her with balloons and roses.

Oakdale came out of the gate aggressively and jumped out to a 9-0 lead within the first 2:30 until Manteca’s Elizabeth Tolbert made a lay-up, ending the Oakdale run with 4:02 remaining in the opening quarter. Oakdale’s Courtney Rodgers knocked down the midrange jumper to give Oakdale an 11-2 advantage forcing Manteca to take the time out with 3:13 remaining in the first. Oakdale’s Madison Hackbarth, who led the team in scoring with 13 on the night, got fouled in the act of shooting and made not just the basket, but completed the three point play by making the free throw as well, to give Oakdale a commanding 14-2 lead with 2:47 left in the quarter. The quarter ended with a Lady Mustang 15-2 lead, on their way to sending senior ‘Cobo’ out with a win.

Manteca opened the second quarter on a 5-1 run leading to a Mustang timeout to regroup. The crowd got right back into the game as Hackbarth drained a deep three giving Oakdale a 24-8 lead with 2:29 left in the half. She wasn’t done as she hit another deep three ball as the buzzer sounded to give Oakdale a halftime lead of 24-13. Oakdale carried a 34-20 lead into the final quarter. Manteca made the game interesting in the fourth as the Buffaloes went on a 10-2 run to open the final quarter and trimmed the lead to 26-23 with 4:41 remaining. The teams traded the next several baskets and Manteca was able to close the gap to 38-33 with 55.2 remaining. But Oakdale played tough defense to end the game and capture the 39-33 victory.

“It was an emotional night. The support from my teammates, coaches, family, and friends is and always will be appreciated,” said senior Cobarruvias. “Basketball is a team sport. I cherished every minute of my playing time for Oakdale and for those who will be playing next year, just stick together.”

Cobarruvias is still looking into colleges but she has had contact with several. She wants to major in business, but also play volleyball at the collegiate level. She also has ambitions to become a pilot.

“But hey, if all else fails, I’d like to be CEO of Nike,” she added with a smile.

‘Cobo’ hit double digits in the finale, scoring 10 points in her last high school game.

Coach Schwitters spoke about Cobarruvias, who he coached at the varsity level and previously in seventh grade.

“She has always been a positive person; nobody can ever say a negative thing about her, on or off the court,” Schwitters noted. “I feel lucky to have coached her. I wish her the best, and I couldn’t be happier for her.”

Schwitters was also pleased the varsity girls got to put one more win in the books to finish the season strong.

“It feels good anytime you win, we didn’t put a lot of thought or emphasis on the losing streak,” said Schwitters. I’m so proud of the girls and the effort they put in, not just tonight, but all season long.”