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Big week ahead for area VOL teams

MHS’ Gardner returns to action Wednesday vs. Sierra

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Big week ahead for area VOL teams

Freshman Mikayla Hasal and the Manteca Buffaloes got the better of sophomore Shalane Jackson and her East Union Lancers in a non-league tournament contests on Dec. 29. The rematch is on Thursday at...

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED January 19, 2010 1:49 a.m.

Weston Ranch High’s basketball teams have made it tougher for the defending Valley Oak League champions to, well, defend their championships.

Through two weeks of regular-season action, Manteca High’s boys team and East Union’s girls each have a loss against them thanks to Weston Ranch, which has prevented both from running away from the rest of the pack in the standings.

The good news for Manteca is that help is on the way in time for Wednesday’s anticipated crosstown clash with Sierra at home.

Kiwi Gardner returns to action after serving a five-game suspension —four of which were imposed by the Sac-Joaquin Section — for making contact with an official in a non-league tournament contest on Dec. 28. The junior point guard leads the Buffaloes with 26.1 points per game.

Manteca rebounded from its 65-54 home loss to Weston Ranch on Jan. 8 with 10-points over Ceres and Central Valley last week.

Weston Ranch (4-1, 8-8 overall) is locked in a three-way tie for first place with Manteca and Sierra (both 11-5 overall), and Sonora is a half game back at 4-2.

This week is a big stretch for all aforementioned squads as they wrap up the first half of league play.

Sierra hosts Weston Ranch Friday, while Manteca heads to East Union to face a dangerous Lancer team (2-3, 7-8) that is responsible for Sierra’s lone league loss. The Buffaloes will then face Sonora on Saturday.

Things are a bit more topsy-turvy on the girls side, where six of the nine teams have at least a .500 league record.

Both East Union and Manteca head into tonight’s contests with chips on their shoulders.

The Lancers dropped their second loss at Weston Ranch in two seasons this past Friday, 50-40. Last year, East Union took a 16-game win streak to start the season into its fourth VOL match but lost to the Cougars.

East Union still sits alone atop the VOL standings at 4-1 (12-4 overall) and hopes to add distance between itself and second-place Sonora (4-2, 9-8) along with 3-2 Manteca, Sierra, Weston Ranch and 3-3 Ceres.

On Thursday, East Union will look to exact revenge against Manteca, which knocked off the Lancers 52-47 in the Tom Hawkins/Tracy Breakfast Lions Tournament on Dec. 29. East Union will first have to get past Central Valley, which overcame a double-digit deficit to upset Manteca last Thursday, tonight.

“We still have some control (of our own destiny) and can put a big hit on the rest of the league with some wins this week,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “And we do have a score (to settle).

“The girls are looking forward to it. They know who they’re playing this week; we’ll put it that way.”

Manteca surely isn’t looking past tonight’s opponent in visiting Sierra, the league’s most surprising team thus far after starting the non-league season with four straight losses.

First-year Sierra head coach Steve Unterholzner expects to see the Buffaloes’ best effort coming off back-to-back losses. The fun continues for the Timberwolves Thursday at Weston Ranch and Saturday at home against Central Valley.

“You look at the games we’ve had so far, and when you compare how some teams did against others you can’t help but go, ‘What happened?’” Unterholzner said. “It goes to show that you can’t look past any team in the VOL.

“There’s a lot of parity in the league, and it makes coaching fun.”

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