MANTECA Sonora High School began defense of its Valley Oak League boys' basketball championship with a 54-46 victory over Manteca on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats (7-7) built an 18-point lead through the first three quarters behind the strong inside play of center Tom McDonnell (game-high 20 points) and the outside scoring of point guard Rob Hoyt (14). McDonnell even ventured outside for a 3-pointer, while Hoyt, Aaron Jolley and Zach Dyer each connected on two treys.
Hoyt, as usual, was a dervish on defense, holding Manteca star Gilbert Martinez the VOL's Most Valuable Player in football to three points.
"We played some great defense," Sonora coach Rick Francis said. "Hoyt just shut down Martinez, (forward) Rob Paterson (in his first start) played good defense, and we dominated the boards."
The 6-foot-7, all-VOL McDonnell held sway on the glass.
"They didn't have any way to deal with Tom," Francis said. "He had a big size advantage, which won't be the case when we play East Union and Oakdale."
Those teams are the ones to beat in the VOL and they beat some lumps on each other a few miles away from the Sonora-Manteca game, with East Union (9-5) posting a 61-53 homecourt victory over the Mustangs (10-5).
For its part, Sonora played with a fire that was lacking in some of its preseason games.
"Our intensity level was way up, and we played hard," Francis said. "I'm very pleased with this game."
Steven Aschenbrenner, who spent the football season passing to Martinez as Manteca's quarterback, led the Buffaloes with 14 points.
Sonora has the rest of the week off because Pitman of Turlock has no varsity. The Sonora sophomore and freshman teams will visit Pitman on Friday at 5:45 and 7:15 p.m., respectively.
The next Sonora varsity game is Tuesday at Bud Castle Gym against Buhach Colony of Atwater (1-11), a first-year varsity team.