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Weston Ranch, Lathrop vying for final playoff berth in VOL
Devin Nunez seeks out a Sierra teammate while defended by Mantecas Michael Hatfield (40) and Tydus Verhoeven (10) in midair last Wednesday. Manteca upset Valley Oak League champion Sierra 47-45 that night. The crosstown rivals have their postseason berths already locked up going into tonights final day of the regular season. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Sierra’s boys basketball team heads to Lathrop tonight coming off an impressive 71-46 drubbing of Weston Ranch.

Coach Scott Thomason expects even more out of his three-time defending Valley Oak League champion Timberwolves (12-1 VOL, 20-5 overall) tonight as area boys and girls squads wrap up regular-season play. His team is gunning for a top-four seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III bracket, so there is still plenty left for it to play for.

“We still haven’t played our best game yet,” Thomason said. “Hopefully this isn’t the best we’ll play; we’re hoping to play our best game of the regular-season on Tuesday night. We’ll be ready to go.”

For others, their postseason fates rest on tonight’s results.

The Spartans of Lathrop (8-5, 15-10) and Weston Ranch (7-6, 12-14) are battling for the VOL’s third and last available postseason berth tonight but in separate games. Lathrop gets the tougher draw with Sierra, though Weston Ranch gets no easy out with Kimball (6-7, 16-10), which spoiled the Spartans’ chance to clinch their spot last Friday with a 69-67 win that was decided in the final seconds.

The three playoff spots are already occupied on the girls side of the VOL. Tonight, first-time titlist Kimball (12-1, 23-3) plays for an outright claim as it takes on Weston Ranch (11-2, 18-7). Third-place East Union (8-5, 17-8) travels to Sonora (7-6, 13-9) in its final tune-up for the playoffs.

Weston Ranch is forfeiting last Saturday’s 65-63 win over East Union for using a player who also participated in the sophomore game that night. With East Union declared the winner, Sonora is eliminated from the playoff picture.

“People who know me understand it was an honest mistake,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer said. “When it comes down to it, when we play (tonight) we still have a chance to be co-VOL champions.”

It won’t be easy. 

Kimball is rolling behind an 11-game winning streak and previously downed Weston Ranch, 55-35. Making matters worse for the Cougars, junior guard Rauline Martinez is forced to sit out tonight after she was whistled for two technical fouls and ejected from last Saturday’s game against East Union. Weston Ranch played without the former Brookside Christian standout throughout its entire pre-league schedule because of transfer rules.

“Not having Martinez on the court will be a big difference,” Bauer said. “We’ve played 14 games with her but we also played without her in the preseason and we were successful with both. Other kids are going to have to step in and fill roles.

“Last time we played them we shot 20 percent, had 20 turnovers, one assist and didn’t rebound all that well. We just didn’t play very well, but we know we’ve improved since then and so have they.”

There is far less drama in the Trans-Valley and Southern leagues.

Ripon’s boys play Orestimba tonight with the fourth and final TVL playoff seed already shored up. Modesto Christian and Riverbank are the top two for both boys and girls.

The Ripon Christian girls are outright champs of the SL and close the regular season at runner-up Gustine. The school’s boys team is the conference’s No. 2 seed.


Sophomore girls

East Union 56, Weston Ranch 19

Jordyn Posz poured in 22 points, and Jessica Pablo contributed 17 as the Squires (7-6 VOL, 17-7 overall) rolled to a win last Saturday at Weston Ranch.