To be the best you have to beat the best, but the best are pretty darn good.
Oakdale High’s varsity boys basketball team has the difficult task of squaring off with Valley Oak League juggernauts this season, and took on league favorite Sierra (2-0 VOL, 12-2 overall) on Tuesday, though results were not available at press time.
Sierra dominated the area with a violent run through the preseason and was in the midst of an 11-game winning streak as of Tuesday. And the Timberwolves are only one of two VOL teams to return key members of stellar programs from 2011.
Reigning VOL champs, Weston Ranch, went undefeated in conference action a season ago and made the Sac-Joaquin semifinals after consecutive wins to open last year’s Division IV bracket.
Weston Ranch beat Oakdale 81-51 on Jan. 3, but was stunned by a 42-40 Manteca upset on Jan. 6. The decision forced six VOL teams to start their respective conference schedules at 1-1, but further clarified Sierra’s post above the standings.
Oakdale (1-1, 6-7) is one of six teams that were expected to join Weston Ranch (1-1, 9-5) and Sierra for jostling amongst the top three teams in the standings. Manteca (1-1, 8-7) made a case for its own elite status, but also fell 60-49 to a Kimball team (1-1, 8-7) that Oakdale edged 62-58 on Jan. 6.
Lathrop (1-1, 8-6) has a non-league win over Kimball and slipped 52-45 to a tall Sonora team (1-1, 8-5) that has twice been dispatched handily by Sierra.
Oakdale has a good chance to better its own record during 2012 Winter Homecoming in Friday’s game against East Union (0-2, 8-6).
Oakdale’s senior center Justin Martinez was named the junior King a season ago, and appears primed for a similar position in the All League voting after a pair of terrific performances to begin the year.
He scored 20 points for Oakdale during the loss to Weston Ranch, and led a late surge to score a game high 27 points in the win over Kimball. Oakdale trailed Kimball 14-9 after a quarter and 27-22 at the half, firing back on a huge 20-11 rally in the third quarter. Kimball closed the gap in the fourth, but Oakdale played well in the final moments to secure the win. Marcus Hernandez (10), Nathan Van Ryn (seven), Vince Fauria (six), Manny Hernandez (six), Dewayne Finney (four) and Josh Watts (two) also scored in the win. Martinez is the key post figure for an Oakdale team that graduated his standout brother (Jake Martinez) a season ago. Van Ryn has also played clutch in the post while Fauria, Marcus Hernandez and Manny Hernandez have shined in Oakdale’s frontcourt.
Finney has led Oakdale in scoring during more than one preseason contest and has proven tough to stop when Oakdale is flying up court in transition.
Oakdale was 6-7 a season ago and will need a better finish in 2012 to multiply upon the VOL’s league strength to reach a top-16 power rating and playoff berth.