At No. 19 on the third release of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings, Oakdale High School’s varsity boys basketball team is close enough to sniff a playoff qualification (top 16).
But the question is — will they taste it?
Topping Lathrop today (Feb. 16) and beating No. 15 host Sonora in Friday’s second-to-last Valley Oak League contest will obviously only help those chances, but even that may not be enough.
But in theory, a playoff game seems possible.
Sonora beat Kimball by just one point earlier in the year, and could lose in their Tracy showdown today. Two losses would leave Sonora with the same league standing as Oakdale, which has a greater win-loss record in non-league games to multiply upon.
No. 16 Hogan has just one game left, but they lost to that team (Vallejo) earlier in the season. No. 17 Vista Del Lago sees two solid teams they have already beaten while No. 18 Whitney faces the two best teams in its league.
In short, Oakdale basically needs complete meltdowns from Sonora, Hogan, Vista Del Lago and Whitney, coupled with their own 2-0 finish to the season to somehow have a shot.
And of course this has to happen while Oakdale takes one game at a time.
“We know to have any kind of chance of making playoffs, we have to run the table,” Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields said. “It’s going to be hard, but it’s all we’ve got.”
The Mustangs did their best to reach that goal with a pivotal 53-49 win over visiting Manteca on Friday. The Buffaloes took the previous meeting on Jan. 19, but couldn’t cling to a 20-12 lead after a quarter this time around. Oakdale rallied to a 14-4 second quarter run and carried a two-point lead at the break. A two-point advantage in the third and a fourth quarter deadlock in scoring preserved the Mustang win.
E.J. Godfrey brought Manteca close after a falling trey with a minute, nine seconds to play, but a late Manteca travel and big Mustang rebounds kept the game out of reach in the final seconds.
“We have played a lot of close games this year, and there is no substitute for experience,” Fields said. “The more you play and the more you are in those kinds of situations the less thinking you have to do and it comes natural to react.”
Godfrey landed a game high 28 points, but couldn’t stop a barrage of Mustang scoring from across the court. Vince Thompson sank 13 points, while Blake Thompson added 12. Manny Hernandez and Jake Martinez tallied eight points apiece while Daniel Linder, Marcus Hernandez and Justin Martinez all scored four.
“I am so sick of losing because this team had so much promise and we just blew it,” Vince Thompson said. “We had to get this one, and now we have to get the next one.”
Oakdale earlier in the week dropped a 60-49 decision to Sierra on Feb. 9 despite 13 points from Manny Hernandez.