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BASKETBALL: Lancers widen lead in race to playoffs
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MODESTO — The Valley Oak League’s girls basketball contenders widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the pack on Wednesday.
Third-place East Union did its part, dispatching Central Catholic 53-42 to open up a three-game lead with five to go in the race for the league’s three automatic berths to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
It’s the start of a big closing stretch to the regular season for the Lancers (5-2, 14-7 overall), who previously needed overtime to sneak past Central Catholic (2-5, 15-8), 50-42.
“We were fortunate to get into overtime last time,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “This time we had a more solid game and had balanced scoring.”
Six-foot-3 center Donja Payne racked up 23 points and seven blocks in the Lancers’ last meeting with CC. She was again their anchor, scoring 21 points. Freshman Ala Tuuga contributed 12 points, and guards Nina Murphy and Julia Vezaldenos had eight apiece.
“We know that these teams are gearing up to stop Donja, so it helps knocking down perimeter shots,” Agostini said. East Union knocked down four 3-pointers in all.
Nursing a 25-22 halftime lead, East Union changed defenses in the third quarter to help quicken the pace of the game. The Lancers outscored Central Catholic 17-10 in the period and were able to maintain their double-digit lead down the stretch.
Tessa Gallo paced Central Catholic with 18 points, and Jasmine Kelly chipped in 12.
East Union travels to Oakdale on Friday and hosts Ripon for its annual Hoops for the Cure contest on Saturday.

Manteca 68, Oakdale 55
OAKDALE — The Buffaloes (6-1 VOL, 15-7 overall) led by as much as 23 in the fourth quarter thanks efficient scoring from their starting five.
Jayda Jackson was among Manteca’s five double-digit scorers, finishing with 16 points, five rebounds and seven assists. Jaslyn Woods collected 15 points and 10 rebounds. Kyaira Jacobs turned in 14 points and six boards. Paige Peterson (six rebounds) and Marissa Serrano pumped in 11 points apiece.
The Buffaloes raced to a 31-26 halftime lead after their 18-10 surge in the second quarter. Oakdale (1-6, 13-10) relied on Grace Higle and Alicia Platt to provide much of the offense, as they scored 23 and 19 points, respectively.

Kimball 56, Weston Ranch 49
TRACY— The Cougars (2-5, 9-12) were once again competitive against the VOL-leading Jaguars (7-0, 18-3) but were done in by foul trouble and a poor shooting percentage from the free-throw line.
Weston Ranch was outscored 16-6 in the second quarter and trailed 25-16 at halftime. Three of its five starters picked up their third fouls, but the Cougars also had chances to stay within striking distance with free throws. They made just 13 of 27 from the stripe.
“We had to change the way we play to fit the personnel and our offense stalled a little bit, but the kids continued to battle,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer said.
Jennalyn Laminero fired 17 points to lead Weston Ranch. Shania Watts added 10 points, and Kyshanti King had nine. Kimball was spearheaded by Isabelle Lacap’s 16 points.

Varsity boys
Lathrop 61, Pacheco 45

LOS BANOS — Eddie Cotton accumulated 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Spartans (6-3, 14-7) rolled in their tune-up for Friday’s showdown with Western Athletic Conference-leading Mountain House.
Amiel Adams registered 13 points, five rebounds, three steals and three assists. Noah Thierry added 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists.