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EU seniors take final bow after one-sided playoff loss
The ball skips off the fingertips of East Union center Alyssa Wegner after sealing off St. Mary’s standout Afure Jemerigbe. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin
GALT — Things went pretty much as expected Wednesday afternoon at Galt High, the site of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals.

St. Mary’s steam-rolled its third straight playoff opponent, this time East Union, 90-35, in a contest that was competitive for about as long as it took the jump ball to float into the waiting fingertips of Rams forward Afure Jemerigbe.

Three minutes and 17 seconds later, St. Mary’s led 12-2 thanks to Ali Gibson’s first 3-pointer.

Shortly thereafter, Chelsea Gray scored seven points over the course of 21 seconds giving the Rams a 24-7 advantage.

And the rout was on.

Scoring an average of 95 points per postseason contest, the nationally-ranked Rams have cakewalked into the section finals, outscoring their first three D-III opponents 284-89.

Wednesday in Galt, Gray led the led way, turning in a game-high 27, five steals, four assists and four 3-pointers.

Jemerigbe wasn’t too bad herself, finishing with 16.

All told, the Rams turned in four double-digit performances. Alle Moreno had 18, and Annissa Garcia chipped in 12.

“Obviously we’re sad that it’s over,” said EU shooting guard Ashley Rose after finishing with six points. “But no one expected us to get this far. It’s an honor and a pleasure to play against a team like St. Mary’s. We gave it our all, we played our hearts out, so we told (our teammates in the locker room afterward) to keep our heads up.”

While East Union was essentially asked to climb Mt. Everest just to make Wednesday’s contest a fair fight, Lancer seniors Rose, Rachel McDaniel and Alyssa Wegner played like it was the last time they would dawn the red white and blue.

McDaniel scored a team-best 10, and was able to penetrate St. Mary’s brutal full-court press with regularity.

Unfortunately for McDaniel, and the rest of her teammates, the finishing was the tough part.

Wegner finished with six, while both Lexy Posz and Shalane Jackson had five. Rachel O’Neal turned in three.

“Their press is good, and they’re really good at reading the passing lanes,” McDaniel said. “But some of the girls on our team are as fast as them, I mean, Ashley and I were able to dribble through that.

“Every press has a weakness and we found that it was the middle, so we kept attacking there.”

Despite the lopsided nature of the contest, the Valley Oak League’s best played like it, never once quitting, or giving into the Rams’ smothering press.

Although mistakes were made, and too many shots didn’t fall, it was clear that East Union had earned its chance to play with the biggest of big boys.

The Lancers played with a relentless energy, and opened a few eyes, especially those belonging to the overwhelmingly large contingent on hand hailing from the Manteca area.

“(Their hustle) just shows you why they are VOL champions,” EU head coach Jim Agostini said. “It shows you why they won two playoff basketball games. To win two is not an easy thing to do. It shows their competitiveness. It’s something that they’ve been doing for a long, long time – since they’ve been lacing up their sneakers.”

But just as Jazz Herrera and Christin Gowan before them, Rose and McDaniel must now pass the torch.

“It’s going to be a big void, obviously,” Agostini said. “That’s the part about being a high school coach that’s hard, saying goodbye to your seniors, because they set the standard for the rest of the team and for your program.”

Said McDaniel: “We have a really good program at East Union, probably one of the best in Manteca. Our underclassmen, they’re going to be pushing it, so are the seniors next year.

“If they keep working on their game, they’re going to be just fine.”