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Pregnant coach leads Buffs to victory over VOL champs

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East Union guard Krustal Young makes a move toward the basket as Manteca defender Mariah Navarro keeps pace.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED February 19, 2010 2:11 a.m.
Unborn and still nameless, Andrea Hiatt’s baby boy did mommy a big favor by holding out past his due date of Feb. 14 for Thursday’s big game against crosstown rival East Union.

Coach Hiatt and her Manteca girls basketball team celebrated a 41-38 victory that snapped East Union’s 32-game winning streak at home and kept the Buffaloes in the hunt for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff berth.

Manteca (10-6 Valley Oak League, 17-10 overall) was coming off Tuesday’s 57-33 loss to second-place Sonora, and it was 13th in the playoff power ratings at the start of the week. Only 16 of the 35 Division III teams qualify, so Thursday’s win on the regular season’s final night was imperative.

The Buffaloes delivered the big win for their coach, but she has a delivery to make of her own this morning. She will check into a hospital at 6 to finally have her baby.

“He waited for this game,” Hiatt said. “People have been asking me about the timing, but I think the little guy was waiting for mama to get to this game.”

The Buffaloes, who took two out of three meetings with East Union this year, surely had reason to celebrate with their season likely continuing.

So too did the Lancers (14-2, 22-5).

East Union already had its fourth straight VOL championship clinched outright going into the game and honored the achievement by cutting down the nets afterwards.

“It’s always hard to lose a game, but you have to remember what the big picture is,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “Every team in this league had the same ultimate goal, and only one team achieved it and it was us. If a team or a school wants to hang their hat this season on beating us, I’ll trade that for a VOL championship.”

Manteca had several unlikely heroes step up, including freshman point guard Mikayla Hasal. She was in on the play that secured the victory.

Mariah Navarro’s 3-pointer was Manteca’s last field goal that also gave it its largest lead, 39-26, with 4:07 to go, but the Lancers did well to stay in the game. Salina Tiscareno hit back-to-back jumpers with under 30 seconds remaining and put her team in position to tie after a steal.

Krystal Young (13 points) missed a 3-pointer from the corner, and Rachel O’Neal grabbed her 17th rebound to keep East Union alive. The Lancers retained possession an eye-blink later following a tie-up, and they called timeout with 2 seconds left.

The inbounds pass from the baseline was intended for Lexy Posz (eight points, five steals) at the left wing, but she never got a shot off as Hasal slapped the ball away.

“I knew they were going to go to Lexy, she’s a good shooter and a great player,” Hasal said. “I just saw the double screen coming and saw her eyes go up, so I just put my hand up and deflected it.”

The Buffaloes never trailed after sophomore Jaqi Gutierrez hit a 3-pointer for the game’s first points with 5:58 left in the opening period.

The team’s top scorer, Sharon Washington, was held to just four points, well below her season average of 16.3 going in. And she was one of three starters — the others being senior forwards Davina Bennett (six points, six rebounds, three steals) and Cynthia Perez (seven points, seven rebounds) — sitting with three fouls during the critical third quarter.

East Union, down 21-10 to start the second half, scored the first 10 points in the third, as Posz’s fastbreak layup closed the Lancers in, 21-20.

Manteca was able to maintain the lead thanks to a key 3-pointer from Gutierrez, a jumper from Navarro and a put-back from reserve center Dallas Mould. Mould finished with eight points and seven rebounds to lead the Buffaloes.

“That was a little nerve wracking,” Mould said. “I just knew I had to pick it up with those girls out of the game.”

Neither team shot well from the free-throw line, but East Union’s 7-for-23 effort may have been the difference. Manteca converted just five of its 15 attempts.

“You have those nights,” Agostini said. “It’s just a part of the game. Every now and then it’s come up and been a bug-a-boo for us, but not too often.”

Like Manteca, East Union will await the section’s release of the playoff brackets Sunday with great anticipation. The Lancers, who will make their 10th consecutive postseason appearance, are currently No. 6 but could drop at least one spot with Thursday’s loss.

The postseason begins next Tuesday.

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