Desperate for a win that would send them into the playoffs, players on Manteca High’s varsity boys basketball team suddenly found themselves against the ropes as they trailed aspiring spoilers, Oakdale, at halftime of the Mustangs’ Feb. 12 Senior Night.
Then punches started to land.
Manteca hit two big three-pointers to start the second half, converted all six free-throw attempts and rallied to a 29-20 lead in the final two quarters for a 49-42 victory over Oakdale.
The Mustangs couldn’t hang on to their 22-20 lead after two quarters, but saw senior DeWayne Finney close his prep campaign with a heroic 16-point game high with 15 of those points scattered across the final three periods.
Josh Watts fought for 11 points in the paint while Spencer Thomas chipped in seven. Jaidyn Sheetz (four), Kyle Peterson (two) and Austin Archuleta (two) also scored.
The win dropped Oakdale to a 9-18 finish on the year and 3-11 in the VOL, though the Mustangs landed three upsets over the stretch of 10 days late in league play.
“We were 0-7 in the first half of league, and that tests your character and tests your will,” Oakdale coach Jeremy Fields said after the contest. “We showed we were not 0-7, talent-wise.
“We got better and better, but missed some shots in this one.”
The VOL ultimately qualified four teams in to the Division III Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Manteca got in as the 16th seed, but wasn’t done any favors in a first-round meeting at state-power, Modesto Christian. East Union was the 14th seed, despite falling to Oakdale after an exciting buzzer-beater on Jan. 23.
Oakdale went on to win two of their next three games, and exploded in a 64-53 win over Kimball that all but erased any playoff hopes for the Jaguars. A 45-39 Oakdale win over Sonora on Jan. 25 also helped keep the Wildcats out of the D-IV playoffs.
“Our goal was to keep getting better every day, and it didn’t matter if it was the first day of practice or the last one,” Fields said. “You show up and you get better, and we proved that.”