Trailing by 16 points against Manteca early in the second quarter, Buhach Colony coach John Bliss called a timeout. He subbed in five new players while telling his team he was looking for five guys willing to play hard.
Fast forward to the final minute of the game after watching his team trim a 24-point lead in the second half down to 10 points, Bliss again subbed in a whole new five. This time he was high-fiving all five players as they came off the court.
Manteca defeated Buhach Colony 56-44 in the semifinals of DBMAC/Save Mart Classic on Friday night at the Thunder Dome, but Bliss was at least pleased with the effort.
“I’m proud of the way we competed in the second half,” said the Thunder coach as his team dropped to 3-3. “We showed a little more moxy, that’s for sure. It’s a work in progress. Our kids are buying into what we’re trying to do.”
Despite having six players still playing football, the Buffaloes (5-2) jumped out to a big lead early against Buhach Colony. Manteca was ahead 18-3 before the Thunder players could catch their breath.
“It was definitely our best start of the year,” Manteca coach David Asuncion said. “It’s something I challenged our guys with before the game. I told them I’ve yet to see us get a good start. I was pleased to see that.”
T.J. Muhard scored all six of his points in the first quarter. The Buffaloes torched the Thunder press and attacked the basket at will. The momentum carried over into the second quarter as Manteca used a 13-3 run to open up a 31-8 lead with 3:17 left in the half.
“Our defensive play wasn’t very good,” Bliss said. “We were unaware what was going on. We didn’t have much of a presence on the defensive end. We’ve got some work to do.”
The Thunder were having just as much trouble on the offensive end. Buhach Colony’s two leading scorers Kaden Verdin and John Zaragoza were held to just one point combined in the first half. Jake Walejko scored eight of the Thunder’s 14 first-half points.
After watching Manteca build the lead to 38-14 early in the third quarter the Thunder finally got going.
Buhach’s Tyler Freitas knocked down a 3-pointer and the Thunder pressure finally started producing some turnovers. Verdin scored six straight points for BC as the Thunder closed to within 44-27 at the end of the third quarter.
Verdin added seven more in the fourth quarter as he scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Zaragoza also had success driving to the basket as he scored seven of his eight points in the second half.
Buhach Colony went on a 13-4 run that cut the Buffaloes’ lead to 52-40 with 3:21 left in the game.
“I was proud we left everything on the floor,” Bliss said.
Manteca’s Austin Haro led all scorers with 18 points. The Buffaloes will face Roosevelt in today’s championship game at Atwater High at 3:30 p.m.
Buhach Colony will face Gregori in the third-place game at Buhach Colony at 3:30 p.m.