Taking on Lathrop and Manteca this week, the Oakdale varsity basketball boys gained a split of the Valley Oak League contests, with each decided by just a few points.
The game with Lathrop was a 63-60 loss.
“The kids battled hard against a very quick and athletic Lathrop squad. Down two with 15 seconds left Oakdale had a chance to tie, but a great drive by Shane Baxter just rolled the wrong way off the rim with six seconds remaining,” said head coach Jeremy Fields. “We had to foul and Lathrop converted one free throw and our last second half court attempt came up short.”
Fields said the Mustang defense wasn’t as stoic as normal, giving up too many offensive rebounds, allowing the Spartans to gain the upper hand.
“On the offensive end we have to do a better job taking care of the ball,” the coach added. “The turnovers and offensive rebounds are glaring. Those are just extra possessions we give teams, and often they turn into undefended baskets. We can’t give teams uncontested looks at the hoop.
“Our energy was solid, we just need to execute better for 32 minutes and eliminate the lulls in our game.”
Leading scorers for Oakdale in the loss were Nick Mattos with 22 points, Austin Archuleta, Shane Baxter and Adam Olsen with 12 points each.
For a Thursday night contest at home, the Mustangs eked out a 49-48 victory over the visiting Buffaloes.
“Extremely exciting game with a good crowd too,” Fields said enthusiastically. “Manteca jumped out to a 29-18 halftime lead in large part to Miguel Lopez’s 14 points in the first half. We rallied in the third quarter because of a spirited defensive effort.”
Fields said at halftime, he and his assistant coaches talked to the team, hoping to make a difference.
“We jumped the guys a bit in the locker room at half about our defensive toughness and intensity,” he said.
The Mustangs keyed on a few Manteca shooters and did a much better job containing them in the second half, Fields said, while they upped their game and rolled to a 14-4 scoring advantage in the third quarter to get within a point of the visitors.
Octavio Padilla did a great job on Manteca’s top shooter in the second half, said Fields, limiting him to just a pair of free throws in the third quarter.
“We challenged our guys defensively at halftime, and they responded, they responded really well,” Fields said. “Adam Olsen and Nick Mattos took turns mirroring Manteca sharpshooter Austin Haro (2 points). Mattos when he wasn’t guarding the shooter was assigned to Manteca’s 6’7” center Mikey Hatfield (13 points).”
Mattos was huge for the Mustangs defensively, using his versatility to his advantage.
“The best thing about him is his motor,” noted Fields. “The kid loves to play hard, and I love to watch kids play hard.”
Nick McElmurry came off the bench for some key minutes, as he was able to give some relief in the post.
“McElmurry was awesome, he gave us great minutes on both ends of the floor. He contributed seven points offensively and was a big threat in the post,” Fields pointed out
Oakdale took its first lead on McElmurry’s post lay up to go up 46-44 with just a couple minutes left in the game. Manteca responded with consecutive buckets of their own, taking a 48-46 lead with under a minute to go. Nick Mattos drove the lane on Oakdale’s next possession and converted one of two free throws and Oakdale trailed by one with about 40 seconds left.
Manteca took a time out and that’s when the Mustangs formulated their last minute game plan.
“During the timeout we talked about how we thought they would attack us, and where we could take advantage of a trap to possibly get the ball back,” Fields explained. “As the play developed we missed our first chance at the trap, but the ball got swung around the opposite side of the floor and Mattos did exactly as instructed and trapped the ball, we got the turnover and a chance at taking the lead with 20 seconds left.”
That’s when Oakdale took a time out and drew up a pair of options to win the game.
“We wanted to attack with about eight seconds left to give us a shot on the boards if we missed. We ran something very similar to what we did Tuesday vs. Lathrop and again we dialed up Shane Baxter,” said Fields. “Our play is designed to have two looks and it’s our point guard’s job to make the read. We were looking to hit Shane again, and Octavio made the right read and pass, and Shane drove the lane hard, challenging Manteca’s Hatfield at the rim.
“I’ve seen Shane go hard to the rim and smash it home during practice, he’s got the ability, and we (coaching staff) encourage him to attack the rim that hard all the time.”
To the delight of the crowd, Baxter finished a strong lay in at the rim while being challenged by Hatfield to give Oakdale a 49-48 lead with four seconds left. Manteca’s ensuing pass and drive was no good for the final result, a hard fought Mustang victory.
Archuleta and Baxter each had 11 points in the win, Olsen chipped in with nine, McElmurry seven and Mattos six.
Also getting on the board were Kyle Peterson (3) and Padilla (2).
“The Manteca game was probably our best team effort all year,” Fields said. “We had a lot of different contributions. McElmurry off the bench was huge, Padilla’s defense in the second half was great, but probably the most overlooked player of the night was sophomore Adam Olsen.
“Adam was big for us, he got us going offensively in the fourth quarter by attacking the basket, getting to the free throw line, setting his teammates up for easy buckets and then hit a big jumper with the shot clock winding down.”