TRACY — Junior Ballard and the rest of the Lathrop boys basketball team aren’t showing signs of wear yet.
Playing in their fourth game in as many days, the Spartans edged out Tracy 69-68 to open the West High Holiday Classic on Thursday thanks to Ballard’s tying and go-ahead free throws in the closing seconds. Lathrop (6-4) forced a turnover on the Bulldogs’ final possession to secure the victory.
“We have to have everybody chipping in a little bit,” Lathrop coach Nate McGrath said. “The nice thing is that we’re a little bit deeper than we have been. I’ve never been able to go five or six deep into the bench like I can now.”
Ballard has had the hot hand for Lathrop. He scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the second half and grabbed 11 rebounds. The 6-foot-2 sophomore was also instrumental in setting up teammates. With less than a minute remaining, he found Idowu Olaleye (nine points) for an easy layup with a pass over Tracy’s half-court press.
“About halfway through the third he picked up his fourth foul,” McGrath said of Ballard. “I told him, ‘I can’t pull you, so you need to take over and be smart.’ And take over and be smart he did.”
Isais Hunter and Michael Mills added 11 points apiece for the Spartans, who play Liberty of Brentwood tonight at 6. Tracy (4-3) was paced by sophomore Miles Turner’s 20 points, while Marc Starling was 4 for 4 on 3-pointers and finished with 19 points.
Liberty 64, East Union 53
TRACY — The Lions (5-1) outscored East Union (6-2) 24-16 in the fourth quarter but converted just three field goals in the process. They shot 14 for 16 on free throws down the stretch, while the Lancers struggled on the offensive end throughout.
Gyse Hulsebosch did have 30 points and made three 3-pointers, but no other Lancer finished in double figures. Travis August led Liberty with 21 points, and Darius Scott had 15.
“The three things really hurt us tonight: we struggled in transition defense, second-chance points and poor shooting,” East Union coach Ryan Tarr said, adding that his team was 4 of 28 on 3-point attempts. “It’s a tough loss but Liberty is a pretty good team with some good players who have size and quickness. I thought we hung with them pretty well.”
Running with the Pack
Manteca 59, Foothill 46
ELK GROVE —Manteca (5-0) overcame the physical play of Foothill (3-5) and advances to the Cosumnes Oaks tournament’s semifinal round.
Anand Hundal led the charge with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Kenny Wooten scored all 11 of his points in the second half while finishing with 14 rebounds and four blocks. But it wasn’t always easy for the 6-foot-9 tandem.
“They got beat up tonight,” Manteca coach Brett Lewis said. “Foothill was very physical with them, especially in the first half. We told them they have to step up a little more and be physical, and both of them did that.”
Tydus Verhoeven did not start but contributed seven points and six assists. He left Tuesday’s game with St. Mary’s in the first quarter as a precaution after landing on his back on a dunk attempt. Matt Ender, Tyler Graves-Kelso, Frankie Lopez and Dwight Young each had six points. Vernon Robertson paced Foothill with 18 points.
Manteca takes on Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento at 7 tonight.
Rio American Tournament
Rio Americano 31
SACRAMENTO — The Spartans (3-1) used a 13-4 run in the second quarter to break it open. They forced 34 turnovers overall, leading to 16 fastbreak points.
Danya Phillips and Myani Thornton led a balanced effort with 10 points apiece. Lathrop faces Del Campo at 8 tonight.
St. Mary’s 49,
STOCKTON — St. Mary’s was able to avenge its loss from Tuesday’s nonleague contest at Manteca. Thursday’s St. Mary’s Holiday Tournament affair marked the third meeting between the two squads in the last six days.
Saleem Safi spearheaded the Buffaloes (2-4) with 10 points, and Jeffrey Cruz registered nine.