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East Union girls draw Division I opponent for Division III NorCal opener
Lancers making 1st NorCal appearance in 28 years
NorCal Regionals ADV
East Union girls basketball coach Jim Agostini watches the action on the court as his Lancers take on Los Banos in the quarterfinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs on Feb. 21. - photo by Wayne Thallander

East Union’s girls basketball team had a tough draw for the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal Regional Championships.

Longtime coach Jim Agostini isn’t complaining. He and the Lancers are elated to be in the state tournament for just the second time in school history.

“You just try to keep playing as long as you can,” Agostini said. “It’s March 1, and we’re still playing basketball.”

Seeded fifth in Division III, the Lancers (23-4) get to host No. 12 Central (21-8) — a Division I school out of Fresno.

“That’s OK,” Agostini said. “We’re excited. For us to get a home game, we’re alright with that.”

The CIF NorCal and SoCal regionals tip off tonight with games starting at 6. Second-round contests are on Thursday.

Also playing tonight are the Manteca and Ripon Christian boys teams, which are both on the road.  All three area squads finished as semifinalists in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Brackets for the state tournament were released Sunday.

While Manteca and Ripon Christian’s boys have garnered championships at this level in recent years, it has been a long time coming for East Union to make its return to NorCals. The first and last time the Lancers made an appearance was back in 1994 when then-senior standout Danelle Liles led them to the SJS Division II title game.

“For your team and seniors to get another shot at home, it’s exciting,” Agostini said. “They’re looking forward to it. The challenge is big and that’s OK; the season has been challenging.”

East Union lost to Lincoln in the SJS semifinals. Lincoln is the top seed of the NorCal Division III Bracket.

Central was the No. 2 seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs and was stunned by Clovis in the semifinals 54-43 after taking a 13-0 lead into the second quarter. They compete in the competitive Tri-Rivers League, which features state power Clovis West — the CS Open Division champ and No. 3 seed of the NorCal Open Division bracket.

Central’s top player is 6-foot-1 forward Talia Maxwell, who averages 22.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.0 blocks.

“She demands a lot of attention, their whole team does,” Agostini said. “That team plays in a very competitive conference, and the strength of schedule is off the charts for every team in that conference.

“We’re up for the task. We’re playing in the NorCal Regional, and there are not too many other teams in the area playing right now.”

The winner faces either No. 4 West County (23-5) Sebastopol or No. 13 Buchanan (18-12) of Clovis.


Division III boys

No. 9 Manteca (20-11) at No. 8 Menlo School (20-7)

The 2016 state champs in this division heads to Atherton after losing to eventual SJS Division III champion Vanden in a competitive semifinal.

Menlo School is the reigning Central Coast Section Division IV champ after defeating Palma, 63-58. The Knights hail from the West Bay Athletic League, which is also home to powerhouse Sacred Heart Prep — the NorCal Division I top seed.

Six-foot-4 point guard Lucas Vogel (18.3 points, 5.6 rebounds) anchors Menlo School and is supported by guard Danny Soloman (14.3 points).

The winner either heads to Chico to square off with No. 1-seeded Pleasant Valley (27-3) or host No. 16 Santa Cruz (20-6).


Division V boys

No. 11 Ripon Christian (20-8) at No. 6 Stevenson (20-7)

Ripon Christian is treated to a trip to the scenic Monterey Peninsula where the Pirates of Pebble Beach await.

Stevenson is the CCS Division V runner-up, losing to Priory 52-42 in the final. Leading the way are point guards Trent Toole (15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 3.0 steals) and Evan Johnson (11.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists). Audon Forgus (11.7 points) is another scoring option from the perimeter, and 6-4 senior Darnell Adler (9.3 points, 10 rebounds) anchors the Pirates from the post.

No. 3 Stuart Hall (17-12) or No. 14 Mt. Shasta (15-12) meets the winner. Cloverdale (25-2) is the top seed of the division.