Based on recent history, Lathrop may be due for another big winning streak.
Now the Spartans are looking to get off the schneid against an all-too-familiar foe.
They ended a four-game skid while notching their first Valley Oak League win of the season Tuesday after grinding past East Union 61-49 at Dalben Center.
“I’m glad we finally got that monkey off our back,” Lathrop coach Craig Ward said. “This was important for us, and now we get Weston Ranch. An article came out about how we’ve never beaten them and Jaelen Ragsdale beat us at the buzzer two straight years. We’re looking forward to that one. That’s a lightweight rivalry for us.”
Lathrop (1-2 VOL, 9-7 overall) has been streaky so far. After dropping three straight to start the season, the Spartans went on a torrid eight-game winning streak and beat top-caliber teams along the way.
Junior Ballard led them against East Union, finishing with 18 points, five rebounds and three steals in limited time. Idowu Olaleye added 11 points and eight boards.
Both were instrumental in widening Lathrop’s third-quarter lead to double digits. Ballard registered 10 of his points in the quarter, eight coming in succession. Then with time winding down he missed a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, but Olaleye was able to chase down the long rebound. Aware of the clock situation, Olaleye immediately rose up for a tough fall-away jumper from the left wing.
Lathrop was ahead 43-30 going into crunch time, and Olaleye continued to leave his mark at the start of the fourth quarter. He stretched the lead with a jump shot with 7:17 to go and scored on a put-back on Lathrop’s next possession.
Isaias Hunter (seven points) later converted a fastbreak bucket for Lathrop’s largest lead at 56-40 with 2:58 left.
“I knew the time was running down, so after I got the offensive rebound I knew I just had to look up and shoot,” Olaleye said of his buzzer beater. “Once I made that I had more confidence in my shot and they were falling.”
Gyse Hulsebosch scored 11 of his game-high 21 points in the opening quarter for the Lancers (2-1, 10-6) and they raced out to a 13-12 lead. Hulsebosch had a hand in every East Union point in the period, as he assisted D.J. Sahota’s layup.
East Union relied on the long ball to stay in the hunt. Hulsebosch drained four 3-pointers, while Blake Greenlee made four in the second half and finished with 14 points.
“Gyse and Blake shot the ball well from 3 but other than that we couldn’t get anything going,” EU coach Ryan Tarr said.
While the Lancers lived on the perimeter, Lathrop did much of the damage inside. The Spartans had an overwhelming 38-24 advantage on rebounds, 16 of them coming on the offensive glass. Adonis Payton pulled down 13 boards, while Anthony Blase collected eight to go with four steals and two blocks. They each contributed four points on offense.
“To hold Junior to 18 points, that’s about as good as you can do, and a lot of those points he got were in the paint off second-chance points,” Tarr said. “It wasn’t our best effort and that’s the frustrating thing. We didn’t come up short because they outplayed us, we just didn’t have a good effort tonight. We didn’t execute offensively and we didn’t rebound.”
Lathrop 49, East Union 35
Leading 16-14 at halftime, the Spartans blew it open with a 19-8 third quarter behind big efforts from Isaiah Victor and Walton Whaley. They each scored eight points in the period and 17 overall.
Jojo Espinoza paced East Union with 13 points, and Omar Sanchez had 10.