MOUNTAIN HOUSE — In the battle to stay atop the Western Athletic Conference standings, Lathrop High stumbled early to the host Mustangs on Friday.
The result of that was Mountain House rolling to an 80-56 victory.
Spartans coach Craig Ward indicated that nerves and some lackadaisical effort may have factored in that poor start.
“We need everybody to give 110 percent effort,” he said.
Lathrop (8-2 WAC, 16-6) trailed 17-0 to start off the game. Bernard Brito broke the scoreless string by draining a jumper at 1:38 mark of the first quarter.
No sooner than that, the Mustangs (9-2 WAC, 17-7 overall) built up a 20-3 lead.
Down 27-6 entering the second quarter, the Spartans continued to experience difficulties against the Mountain House pressure defense.
“It didn’t help having 23 turnovers in the first half,” Ward said.
Lathrop, playing catch-up through the entire game, managed to trim that once large Mustang lead to 12 early in the fourth behind the scoring of Walton Whaley and CJ Ward.
Whaley netted 12 of his team-high 21 points in the third while Ward had 10 of his 12 points in the final period.
Lathrop also got a boost from its bench. In particular, Jaylen Bagby, Julian Chavez and Brito in the second half.
Chavez came up with a steal in transition and found Ward underneath the basket for two to end the third. The Spartans, with their best offensive showing in the game, turned a 50-24 halftime deficit to 60-44.
Ward scored twice early on in the fourth, trimming Mountain House’s lead to 61-48.
Bagby, who had six rebounds and a steal, had a basket that would have made it a 10-point game erased on an offensive foul.
The Mustangs behind the play of Nikko Rodriguez and Jalen Zeno then went on a 12-2 run, taking a 72-50 advantage while sealing the win.
For Spartans – they’re already looking forward to the rematch with Mountain House at home next Friday – Eddie Cotton managed 12 points while hauling in 17 rebounds.
Rodriguez of the Mustangs led all scorers with 24 points, with Zeno and Jordan Lawrence contributing with 12 and 11 respectively.
Mountain House also took the junior varsity game, beating Lathrop convincingly in the early game.