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15-year wait is over: McDaniel leads EU back to semifinals

Slow start not enough to thwart Lancers

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15-year wait is over: McDaniel leads EU back to semifinals

EU head coach Jim Agostini led the Lancers to the SJS D-III semifinals for the first time in 15 years.

BRANDON PETERSEN/The Bulletin/


POSTED February 27, 2009 5:27 a.m.
For the first time in 15 seasons, the East Union Lancers are headed back to the big dance.
Inking their name in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals and a meeting with Manteca’s own Chelsea Gray and the nationally-ranked St. Mary’s Rams, East Union was outstanding Thursday night in a 46-40 win over El Dorado of Placerville.
Leading the way, as usual, were seniors Rachel McDaniel and Ashley Rose. The dynamic duo went out in style, combining for 39 points and five assists in what could be their last appearance at Dalben Center.
The night was especially emotional for McDaniel, a four-year player and three-year varsity starter for the Lancers. East Union’s highly-decorated point guard finished with 19 points, three assists and a pair of steals.
“It’s kind of sad that this was the last game I’m going to play here,” she said. “I just tried to bring all of my heart and passion on to the floor. We all wanted it really bad, and that was basically what decided the game – our heart.”
It looked as though the lanky Cougars would run away with it early as a decided height and rebounding advantage combined with extremely busy hands forced a number turnovers and gave El Dorado an early 14-3 lead.
But just as she’s done all year, East Union’s Ms. Intangibles, Lexy Posz (6 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals), lit a fire under her teammates with a steal at midcourt and a layup to close out the first.
McDaniel’s second 3-pointer of the night pulled East Union to within six at 14-8 to start the second, and just as she did in the first, Posz capped the second quarter with another brilliant play, this time grabbing a steal and dishing off to Krystal Young on the break for two.
The layup, which needed no dribble to complete, knotted the score at 22 apiece, and McDaniel’s steal with five seconds left set up a free throw that gave EU its first lead heading into the locker room.
“It was like a championship fight, there was a lot of counterpunching going on,” EU head coach Jim Agostini said.
Mirroring the first two quarters, the Lancers got off to a sluggish start in the third, not scoring until McDaniel’s free throws at the 3:15 mark. By that time, El Dorado had pushed its lead to 29-23.
But Rose hit her second trey moments later and McDaniel was fouled on another 3-point try at the buzzer. After swishing all three attempts and giving her team a 35-33 lead, McDaniel received a midcourt high-five from assistant coach Scott Renke.
“When you have players like Rose and McDaniel, in clutch situations, nine times out of 10 they’re going to come out on the positive end,” Agostini said.
Rose rattled home her third triple at the five-minute mark of the fourth, making 40-37, and McDaniel put the game on ice at 44-37 with a pair of free throws at the minute mark.
Shalane Jackson (5 points, 9 rebounds) and Rachel O’Neal (11 rebounds) were huge on the boards.
Sarah Mackey and Mikaela Macklin led the Cougars with 10 each.
“This thing has been building for nine years,” Agostini said. “It goes back to Rick Inderbitzin, it goes to Brian (Goulart) building the program, learning from those guys. It’s a great honor to coach this team, these girls have been giving us time, effort, sweat and they haven’t blinked an eye.”
Part of the tradition at East Union includes the Lancers’ full-throated cheering section.
Taylor Edwards and the crew were at their raucous best Thursday, and both Agostini and McDaniel showed the home crowd some love afterward.
“They call themselves the Sixth Woman,” McDaniel said. “It’s one of the best (cheering sections) we’ve ever had. I go to other gyms, and they’re not even close to what we can bring and it really pumps us up.”
Now the only question is, will the Sixth Woman travel to Galt High for the showdown with St. Mary’s Wednesday?
“They said they’re coming,” McDaniel said with a smile. “They said they’re coming.”

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