With No. 8 East Union’s once-seemingly comfortable 24-point lead over No. 9 Vista del Lago having been cut to 14 thanks, Hailey Gosney stopped the Eagles run dead in their tracks.
The Lancers went on to a 61-44 opening-round win Tuesday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs at Dalben Center.
“She’s a third-year varsity starter,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said of Gosney. “When you get in these playoff games you want experience.
“Plays like that, a couple of hustle plays, is all it takes. We talk about 50-50 possessions all the time and how we want to get them and she did a tremendous job.”
With 3:34 left in the game and the Eagles (14-14) having crept back to within 52-38 thanks to 10 unanswered points, Gosney (nine points, five assists) drove the baseline and banked in a shot to stop the Vista del Lago run. On the ensuing position, the Lancers guard grabbed a rebound and got the ball to Destiny Torio (16 points) for a transition basket. The Eagles would manage just six more points the rest of the way.
“They had a big run going and I didn’t want them to get any more,” Gosney said. “I just wanted to win.
“We did good with our passes and we played our game.”
One of the reasons East Union (16-11) gave up that big fourth-quarter run was that post player Donja Payne picked up three fouls in less than minute and was forced to sit most of the period. She recently returned to action after sustaining an ankle injury in December.
“When Donja (Payne) is on the floor, good things happen for us,” Agostini said. “When she’s off the floor, we have to work a little bit harder. That shows you why we were trying to get her healthy this year.
“We have been waiting patiently for her to get better and we are playing basketball now where we thought we could have been playing three or four games into the league schedule.”
Payne tallied 16 points, 15 rebounds and five steals and did so against Vista del Lago’s Lindsey Mooney (11 points), who averaged a double-double this season at 10 points and 12 rebounds per game. Mia Perez led the Eagles with 13 points.
“Their No. 30 (Moody) is the best individual competition I have faced since (Manteca’s) Loretta (Kakala) last year,” Payne said. “It was difficult and I had to get used to rebounding back on offense and being more aggressive.”
Julia Vezaldenos helped East Union out to its 35-14 halftime lead, scoring all 10 of her points in the first half and finishing with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“We came out hard from the beginning,” Vezaldenos said. “It was easy for us to move the ball around so it was easy for me to get open shots the second time around. We all had good looks.”
Vista del Lago managed just seven points in each of the first and second quarters.
“We wanted to make sure we could push pace on them,” Agostini said. “We got transition going and we were holding them to one shot. D (Payne) was getting rebounds and we were running the floor.
“When we had to run half-court sets we made some nice interior passes. It was just a good game by us, one of our best games.”
The Lancers will need their best game of the year when they travel to Sacramento on Thursday at 7 p.m. to face top-seeded Christian Brothers, a 68-21 winner over American Canyon on Tuesday.