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Manteca squeaks by defending VOL champ

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Manteca forward Cynthia Perez looks for an opening toward the hoop with East Union's Shalane Jackson in the way during a consolation semifinal game in the Tom Hawkins Tracy Breakfast Lions Tourname...


POSTED December 30, 2009 2:04 a.m.
TRACY — The good news for East Union’s girls basketball team is that it is still tied for first place in the Valley Oak League.

The Lancers’ 52-47 loss to conference rival Manteca in the consolation-bracket semifinals of the Tom Hawkins Tracy Breakfast Lions Tournament Tuesday at West High doesn’t count against the standings with the regular season set to tip off next week.

But to Sharon Washington and the rest of the Manteca Buffaloes (6-4) it meant something. They proved Tuesday to be a team to be reckoned with in the VOL.

“There was a message: Don’t underestimate Manteca High,” said Washington, who led all scorers with 23 points and 10 rebounds. “This was a big win. We’ve been waiting for this game for so long.

“We knew we came in as the underdogs, so we had to play our game and not theirs.”

East Union (7-3), which won the Tracy Tournament and its first 16 contests to start the 2008-09 season, has taken notice.

After claiming three straight VOL championships and four of the last five, continuing their reign will be more difficult than in the past with others — namely Ceres, Sonora and Weston Ranch — threatening to unseat the Lancers.

East Union will get another crack at Manteca Jan. 21 and again Feb. 18 at home in the VOL finale.

“We’re always looking for a measuring stick in the preseason, and this one tells us where we need to go if we want to be successful in the VOL,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “This game tonight was a good indication of what the VOL will be like.”

It was a back-and-forth struggle throughout consisting of 11 lead changes. The largest margin stood at six when Jaqi Gutierrez made it 16-10 Manteca with two free throws early in the second quarter.

After a quiet seven points in the first half Washington exploded in the second. She finished with four 3-pointers but was also effective in getting her points in transition and by penetrating in halfcourt sets.

“You have to control Washington,” Agostini said. “You can’t let her get hers, but she’s a good basketball player who played a darn-good basketball game. We have to come up with something a little bit better next time.”

The game featured two of the VOL’s best players, the other being East Union’s Lexy Posz. Posz is a dangerous inside-out threat in her own right but got most of her team-high 21 points by creating off the dribble.

While Washington gets the nod as the game’s top performer, Hiatt called it a team effort.

No other Buffalo finished with double figures in points, but forward Cynthia Perez contributed five points, nine rebounds and six steals; forward Davina Bennett had seven points and nine boards; and freshman guard Mikayla Hasal dished out five assists to go with six points.

Reserve Mariah Navarro finished with just four points but hit the game’s biggest shot. Her all-net jumper from the left wing gave Manteca a 49-46 lead with 1:35 to go, and it was set up by Washington collapsing the defense with a drive toward the middle of the key.

Krystal Young contributed 14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals for East Union. Sophomore forward Shalane Jackson had six points and 10 rebounds.

Manteca plays for the consolation championship against the winner of Tuesday’s Enochs-Foothill contest at 4:30 p.m. tonight at Tracy High. East Union will face the loser for 11th place at 3.
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