OAKDALE – Jeremy Fields recognized the challenge when he took over the basketball program at Oakdale High, a school with a reputation for championship football, baseball and wrestling teams.
Basketball? That’s a different story.
Oakdale has long struggled, in part because success in football meant some players were late to arrive for hoops. Playing in the basketball-rich Valley Oak League only compounded the problem.
“This group of junior we have, they came into the program as freshman my first year and they’ve got three years in the system,” said Fields. “We’re seeing some signs that they’re turning this around.”
Oakdale enjoyed its biggest win since Fields’ arrival, as junior Vince Thompson scored 16 points and the Mustangs used a fourth-quarter run to shock Enochs 60-48 for third place in the 40th Oakdale Rotary Classic.
Enochs (10-6) boasts a front line that is 6-foot-8, 6-7 and 6-6, while Oakdale (4-7) countered with 6-3 forwards. What the Mustangs lacked in height, though, they more than made up for in athleticism.
“We played an aggressive zone and we wanted Enochs’ guards to see our white jerseys, rather than the big guys’ numbers, when they tried to make that entry pass,” Fields said.
On the offensive end, Oakdale was able to overcome Enochs’ height by attacking the middle and the baseline. When 6-8 Abel Watts stepped up to deny the drive, it left the baseline open for all-tourney pick Nathan Madsen (10 points) and Jacob Martinez (10) to get quick passes and score.
Oakdale led 38-36 after three quarters, but opened the final quarter with an 11-2 run – doing its damage around the basket. Blake Thompson scored on an offensive rebound, and after Oakdale hit four free throws to make it 44-38, Jacob Martinez went hard to the hoop with 5:32 to play.
His shot was swatted by the 6-7 Galloway, but Martinez grabbed the ball and went right back to the basket to score over Galloway. When Thompson nailed a trey, the Mustangs were up 49-38 and rolling.
The Thompsons, Martinez, and sophomore guard Marcus Hernandez were key players on last year’s junior varsity team, which Fields said won the Valley Oak League title.
“Vince is one of our leaders and he’s capable of hitting the three if a defense is going to drop into a zone,” said Fields, whose club nearly upset Johansen in the semifinals before falling 56-54. “Johansen gives us a look like we’ll see from Manteca, while Enochs plays that patient game that we’ll see from Sonora, so these were nice games for us to get in.”
LOS BANOS 58, CALAVERAS 44 – All-tournament pick Tyler Simmons scored seven of his 12 points in the third quarter, then the Tigers used a 17-11 run to pull away. Erik Martin led Los Banos with 17 points, hitting five 3-pointers, while Simmons also hit three treys.
RIVERBANK 46, HUGHSON 37 – Zach Gonzales scored 11 of his 16 points in the third quarter, as the Bruins opened the second half with a 21-8 spurt to run overtake the Huskies. Hughson, led by Chris Pimentel (14 points), was up 24-17 at halftime.