LATHROP — Jim Agostini knew there would be nights like this.
And it’s just fine with East Union’s girls basketball coach as long as his Lancers keep winning.
Two days after escaping Oakdale with a last-second win, the reigning Valley Oak League champion fended off a late comeback from Lathrop and prevailed 55-47 on Friday. East Union (3-1 VOL, 13-3) led by as much as 14 in the third quarter before the Spartans (2-2, 9-7) opened the fourth on a 9-0 tear to close to within one.
On Wednesday, East Union avoided an upset against Oakdale when Hailey Gosney drained the game-winning 3-pointer with four seconds to go.
“Not just this week, all year,” Agostini said. “These girls are cardiac queens. They’ve just been in battle-tested games from the first game of the year to right now. It was a good bounce-back game from Oakdale where we did not play our best.”
Lathrop’s fourth-quarter rally included one frenetic possession in which the Spartans collected five offensive rebounds before Danya Phillips drilled a jumper from the right wing. Phillips later struck again with a put-back off a missed free throw, and East Union’s lead dwindled down to 47-46 with 3:40 remaining.
Donja Payne (12 points, 13 rebounds) ended East Union’s dry spell with a layup on the next possession, and Lathrop was held without a field goal the rest of the way.
“We have to understand to stay disciplined in what we’re doing and what’s working,” Davis said. “We had a perfect combination working, then when the game got a little close we got excited and we got away from what we were doing and what got us back in the game, and that was being disciplined, running a set all the way through, getting the ball where we wanted in the middle of the paint.”
Ruby Daube led East Union with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. DeJohna Pryor added seven points and nine boards. The Lancers also got key minutes from their reserves. Marcella Salyer pitched in six points and five steals, three of them coming during East Union’s dominant second quarter. Mariah James finished with five points, including a 3 in the final seconds of the first half that gave the Lancers a 31-23 lead at the break.
East Union trailed 23-20 before ending the second period with 11 unanswered points.
“I love what our bench did today,” Agostini said. “Anytime we can get production from our bench is a bonus for us. We know teams are going to load up on our strong side, so we have to be ready to knock down shots from the weak side; it’s as simple as that. Anytime we can get production off the bench it just makes our team so much better.”
Mary Cotton, a promising 5-foot-11 sophomore, registered 15 points and 16 rebounds for Lathrop. Myani Thornton added 11 points, and Phillips ended up with 10. The three leading Spartans didn’t play for much of the second quarter because of foul trouble, allowing East Union to outscore them, 15-5. East Union shot 33 free throws, making 19 of them.
“For the past two years that’s where East Union beat us was from the free-throw line,” Davis said. “We have to be smarter.”