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BASKETBALL: Lathrop rekindles rivalries in postseason openers
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Manteca's Kyaira Jacobs drives on East Union defenders Lauren Pablo (12) and Nina Murphy in the Valley Oak League regular-season finale at Dalben Center on Friday. - photo by DAVE CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

Lathrop High's boys and tgirls basketball teams are getting reacquainted with Manteca Unified rivals in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

The postseason tips off Monday with out-bracket games, one of them involving two area squads. In Division III boys action, 17th-seeded Lathrop (17-9) makes the short trip to No. 16 Sierra (15-11), the fifth of five qualifiers out of the Valley Oak League. 

The Timberwolves advance despite ending the regular season on an eight-game losing skid, while Lathrop won three of its last four — the loss was a 71-69 near-upset of first-place Mountain House —  to seize the last of three automatic postseason berths in the Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans are in their first year in the WAC after moving from the VOL.

The winner will be awarded a first-round match-up against the hottest team in the SJS — VOL champion and No. 1-seeded Weston Ranch (27-1), which notched its 26th straight victory last Thursday at Sierra, 54-36. Manteca (19-9) is also in Division III and hosts No. 13 Cordova (17-11) on Wednesday as the No. 4 seed. Cordova ran the table in claiming the first-year Greater Sacramento League title.  

The Division III girls bracket includes a Nos. 7-10 showdown between WAC co-champion Lathrop (21-6) and East Union (18-9) on Tuesday. This reunion features two of the top players in the area in 6-foot Lathrop guard Mary Cotton and Donja Payne, East Union's star 6-3 center. Cotton and the Spartans are undefeated at home this season.

East Union is coming off a 55-43 upset of VOL co-champion Manteca (19-8), which edged out Lathrop 56-55 in the Mountain House Tournament two months ago. Manteca is seeded fourth and welcomes El Capitan (19-9).

Lathrop moves up a division after reaching the Division IV final last year. The Spartans waxed fellow WAC co-titlist Beyer 73-35 on Friday in a contest that determined which team is seeded higher for the postseason. They were previously upset at Beyer 49-45 to force the title share but beat the Patriots — who earned the 11th seed — convincingly in their first meeting, 62-39. Beyer opened its season with a 61-53 win over East Union.

In other postseason openers:

  • The Trans-Valley League champion Ripon boys (17-11) take their eight-game winning streak into the Division IV playoffs. Seeded fourth, the Indians play host to No. 13 Amador (12-13) on Wednesday.
  • TVL runner-up Ripon Christian (18-9) won't get to defend its SJS Division VI boys championship. That's because the Knights were promoted to the more challenging Division V bracket, they are seeded fourth and matched against No. 13 Gustine (9-15) on Wednesday.
  • Ripon Christian's girls (17-9) get to stay in Division VI as the reigning champion in the field. The Knights get a bye Tuesday and begin the postseason Thursday against No. 5 Turlock Christian (16-8_, the Central California Athletic Alliance champion.
  • Ripon's girls (19-7) are rolling behind a seven-game winning streak. The Indians are the No. 5 seed in Division IV and await No. 12 Orestimba (15-11) on Tuesday.

All games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. until the championship round, which is set for Feb. 22-23 at Golden 1 Center.