MANTECA — It's been quite a week for Manteca High girls' basketball coach Andrea Hiatt, and the best part arrives today.
By the time you read this, the 34-year-old Hiatt likely will have delivered her baby — just 10 hours after celebrating her Buffaloes' critical win over crosstown rival East Union.
"Wow, what a time we've had this week!" said Hiatt, after a 41-38 Valley Oak League win earned the Buffaloes a playoff spot. "I'm a Manteca High grad, class of '93, so I know it's important to get East Union."
But not as important as getting to the hospital today by 6 a.m. Hiatt knows the baby is a boy and has a list of possible names, but they're a secret.
"The girls call him 'Baby Tupac,' but we'll find out his name pretty soon," said Hiatt, whose husband, Brock, graduated with Hiatt. "I have been waiting for this little guy a long time. The girls are going to enjoy this win, but I'm heading home so I can pack a bag for the hospital."
The Buffs (17-10, 10-6) made sure their coach will carry a happy thought into the maternity room, having upset the Stanislaus District's No. 2-ranked large-school team on the road.
It was the first time EU (22-5, 14-2) lost at home since December 2007, a string of 33 wins. It was only EU's second loss at home in four seasons.
The Buffs led by 11 at halftime, but EU rallied to tie it at 24 late in the third quarter.
Manteca responded with an 8-0 run, though, with four separate players hitting baskets. EU got back into the game with a halfcourt trap that created turnovers, but Manteca retaliated by sending center Cynthia Perez into the high post and using her to distribute passes to the Buffs' wings.
When the defenders backed away, Perez put the ball on the floor and drove to the basket and hit difficult layups.
EU challenged again in the closing minutes, and got within 41-38 and had the ball with 2 seconds to play. Manteca freshman point guard Mikayla Hasal, however, darted in and stole the inbounds pass to seal it.
"We had to win this game to get into the playoffs, and that helped pull us through," said Hasal, whose club had led by 13 with 3:58 to play. "It's been a great season. Coach getting ready to have her baby and us going to the playoffs. I started playing ball when I was just 4 years old, but I can't remember having a year like this."
Hiatt had talked to her players last summer about making a commitment to the program, but it wasn't your typical rendition. She had found out a few days earlier she was pregnant, and did the math.
"I saw it would happen just about the end of the season," Hiatt said. "My goal was to make sure I would make it to the end. The girls were committed. I told them that I was, too, and that we'd make this a great season for all of us."
As recently as Tuesday, Hiatt didn't know she would make it to this rivalry game.
"I went to the hospital Tuesday morning, he was moving around quite a bit, but I was told it wasn't time," she said. "It's almost like the little guy knew how important it was that we make this game."
Hiatt won't be on the bench for the next one — Tuesday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division III opener. Manteca will be a big underdog, but Hiatt has faith in her kids and the two coaches who will lead them.
"My assistant (Garrett Tolman) and (boys' coach) Dave Asuncion will do a great job," Hiatt said. "It will be difficult because I love working with this group. It's been a trying season for me, getting bigger and bigger, but it's great with the way the girls responded."
The Buffs have made sure their coach behaved, as well.
"I usually love to get on the court in practice and practice with the team," said Hiatt, a star in her playing days. "I'd go out there, but they'd send me back to the bench and say 'Coach, you're pregnant!' "