Lania Taylor did not score a point for the East Union girls basketball team Friday night, but she helped steer the Valley Oak League championship showdown with host Manteca the Lancers’ way at just the right time.
With the Buffaloes threatening to close a seven-point deficit late in the third quarter, East Union drew three charging fouls in the final 90 seconds of the period – the first by Ruby
Daube and then two by Taylor – and that gave way to a 7-2 Lancers run to start the fourth quarter and 64-48 win at Manteca’s Winter Gym.
The win clinches the outright VOL championship for the Lancers.
“I really don’t play a lot,” Taylor said. “So it was really exciting to be able to do that to help change the game for our team and now we are VOL champions.”
The game was tied after one quarter and the Lancers (13-0 VOL, 25-1 overall) took a 24-21 lead at halftime due in part to Donja Payne’s six second-quarter points and her 12 first-half rebounds. Payne finished with 12 points and 18 rebounds.
“It was a very physical game,” Payne said. “You have to play good defense. You can’t lose your focus so I had to just go out there and play and keep my head up.”
Daube made seven fourth-quarter free throws and led East Union with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
“We knew that if we won we were VOL champions and if we lost we would have to share,” Daube said. “We all wanted to win it and that was my goal as soon as I stepped on the court – I wanted it.”
For most of the year Olivia Vezaldanos earned high-point honors for the Lancers, and on Friday she flirted with a triple double, scoring 18 points with 11 rebounds and seven assists.
“I don’t even have the words right now,” Vezaldanos said. “It feels absolutely incredible. For four years I have been working toward this and to have it outright and be undefeated in league and be 25-1 at this point is incredible. It’s crazy to think that in November we had this idea and it happened.
“I am so proud of this team and tonight proved that I don’t have to 30 or 20 points – and the charges at the end of the first half were huge. That changed the game and I am so proud of everyone for stepping up and doing what they needed to do.”
East Union coach Jim Agostini was pleased with how his team got to where it is.
“Nobody is going to catch us now,” Agostini said. “These girls did it right. They have their priorities straight – they have life in balance, they love their families, they love their school and they love their team.
“Any time you can clinch a championship it’s nice, but it is absolutely a little sweeter when you do it here. This is a good, intense, competitive rivalry. Both schools take great pride in it. We have shared titles with them, we have won titles and they have won titles, but it is nice to clinch against your intra-district rival.
In the end foul trouble helped seal the fate of the Buffaloes (11-2, 17-9)
“This was disappointing,” Manteca coach Mary Ann Tolbert said. “We played a fantastic first half even with Loretta (Kakala) in foul trouble. That was a positive for us. We were working hard on defense and stopped the middle drives where they had hurt us the last game.
“We came out in the second half and got into really bad foul trouble. I thought there were some calls that could have gone either way.”
Rubel Dehal led the Buffaloes with 13 points behind three 3-pointers. Kakala added 12, Lejla Pepic 11 and Sydnee Fryer had 11 rebounds.