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TITLE TOWN?

East Union girls, Manteca boys can capture VOL crowns this week

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TITLE TOWN?

Manteca head coach Dave Asuncion and his Buffaloes look to end the program's league championship drought this week. Manteca hasn't won a boys basketball title since the 1988-89 season.

Bulletin photo/


POSTED February 17, 2009 4:31 a.m.
Scissors and ladders will be at the ready.
But who will be tearing down the nets this week as the Valley Oak League season comes to a close?
One local team is looking to continue its reign of the VOL, while another is fighting to finish on top for the first time in 20 years.
It won’t be easy for both.
Leading off this week’s potential net-cutting ceremonies in town are the East Union girls, who have claimed at least a share of three of the last four championships including two straight.
Having halved two of those three titles — one with Sierra in 2004-05 and last year with Sonora — the Lancers don’t want to share it this time.
Last year, East Union could have clinched it outright but was stunned by rival Manteca, 41-39, in the regular-season finale. Sonora, meanwhile, drubbed Oakdale, 52-30, to force a split of the championship.
East Union happens to again lead Sonora by a game with two remaining. Oakdale visits tonight and Manteca awaits Thursday.
“It’s a great position to be in,” second-year East Union head coach Jim Agostini said. “We feel there is only one team playing for a league title this week, and that’s us. We don’t want to have to look for help from anybody else.
“The girls and the staff are fully aware of our situation. (Tonight) is our most important night of the year.”
The East Union-Manteca rivalry has developed into a great one in recent years. Monday marked the three-year anniversary of the Lancers’ last home loss in league, decided by a buzzer-beating shot against Manteca, 57-54.
In 2006-07, the VOL crown was on the line when they met for the final regular-game of the season. East Union flurried late to prevail 62-48 and capture the outright championship.
Last year’s loss to the Buffaloes was decided during the waning seconds, and it dropped East Union to the 11th seed of what was a deep Sac-Joaquin Section Division III bracket.
“They’ve done their part in making this a nice rivalry,” Agostini said. “There have been some big games between our teams, and those buzzer beaters had huge impacts on us. But we don’t want any part of a great game Thursday night.”
The Manteca boys squad is also seeking a measure of revenge in its quest for the VOL title.
The Buffaloes suffered their only league loss of the season to Sonora Jan. 28, 60-50, and guess who visits Winter Gym Wednesday night?
The Buffaloes are virtually a lock to make their first playoff appearance since the turn of the century.
“The first thing we want is revenge,” Manteca coach Dave Asuncion after Friday’s 74-67 road victory over defending champion Weston Ranch. “We would have liked to go through league perfect but Sonora put a damper on that, so we want a little payback. If we get a little payback, maybe the nets will go down.”
Asuncion said that a rare poor shooting night doomed his team at Sonora’s Bud Castle Gym in their last meeting. Wednesday’s contest will feature two of the league’s top wings in Sonora’s 6-foot-5 Brenden Evans (18 ppg, 10 rpg) and 6-3 Nick Scheible (17 ppg, 7 rpg) as well as Manteca’s electric sophomore point guard Kiwi Gardner.
Sonora remains in the title hunt, but a loss Wednesday would mathematically knock the Wildcats out of the race. Sierra is only a game out and can still get a piece of the championship.
Since it’s been 20 years, Manteca wants to make this year’s title run special.
“They don’t want to share, they’re pretty stingy,” Asuncion said. “But they also have the mindset that they still have to get better for the playoffs. We want to get ready for season three, but obviously we want to finish the job in league.”

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