CERES — Undefeated East Union got its wake-up call early.
The Lancers’ perfect record to start the season was in jeopardy during their Valley Oak League opener against Ceres Tuesday, but they battled through foul trouble and a poor shooting night to prevail, 38-31.
“We just weathered the storm a little bit and gutted one out,” said East Union coach Jim Agostini, whose team improved to 14-0. “Ceres did a good job. It was a good, old-fashion VOL game.”
Ceres (0-1, 4-9 overall) struggled to break East Union’s full-court press in the early going, but the Lancers’ aggressive pressure led to fouls.
Reigning VOL Most Valuable Player Rachel McDaniel and freshman phenomenon Shalane Jackson each picked up two fouls early and were forced to sit out for most of the first half.
McDaniel was still able to produce her usual all-around numbers — nine points, six rebounds, five steals and five assists.
Sophomore Lexy Posz rallied East Union to the victory behind 13 points and seven rebounds. Ashley Rose added 12 points, six steals and four assists.
The win sets up a big showdown with fellow defending co-champion Sonora on the road Thursday. The Wildcats (6-6) crushed Sierra (5-5), 67-45, Tuesday.
“It’s a game that the coaching staff has thought about for a long time, but now we get to talk about it,” Agostini said.
“We have a day to prepare for what is a very crucial game for both teams. It will set the tone for the early stages of league.”
In Oakdale, the host Mustangs (1-0, 6-5) pulled off the first stunner of the regular season behind Cassandra Clark’s 19 points.
For Weston Ranch (0-1, 10-4), it was its first double-digit loss all season and its worst offensive performance. The Cougars made just one of 12 free throws while shooting a paltry 20 percent from the field.
Oakdale closed the game with a 16-6 run.
Freshman Jazmin Strane led Weston Ranch with nine points and 14 rebounds.
“We just didn’t come to play,” Weston Ranch coach Chris Bauer said. “We weren’t mentally focused. We have to understand that we have to come out and be ready to go and that we can’t take anyone lightly in league.”
In Ceres, the Buffaloes (1-0, 8-6) trailed almost the entire game before running away with it at the end.
Morgan Salsedo led the way with 14 points, and Davina Bennett scored 12 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. Brianna Wallace was key off the bench, as she posted eight points and eight boards.
While its offense struggled until the fourth, it was Manteca’s defense of sharp-shooting guard Julie Calderon, who was held to nine points, that kept the Buffaloes in it. Coach Andrea Hiatt credited Kristi Llamas and Salsedo for their one-on-one pressure on Calderon, as Manteca sat in a box-and-one defense.
“We were successful in containing their best player,” Hiatt said. “Defensively we did the job, but offensively we were flat for three full quarters.
“Down the stretch, we executed and did what we needed to do.”