There were moments when East Union coach Jim Agostini had to remind himself that little, if anything, was on the line during Tuesday’s reunion with Sonora at Bud Castle Gym.
“We’ve had so many battles with them over the years,” Agostini said. “Coach (Rick) Marsh and I kept saying, ‘It’s only preseason, it’s only preseason,’ but we still wanted to win. It sure didn’t feel like a preseason game.”
It may take a few years for these former Valley Oak League rivals to let old grudges fade. East Union prevailed in the reunion 62-57 and needed a fourth-quarter surge to topple the Wildcats, who now compete in the Mother Lode League.
Last year, East Union qualified for the postseason at Sonora’s expense thanks a forfeit win over Weston Ranch, which used an illegal player in the second-to-last regular season contest. Three days later, the Lancers traveled to Sonora and grinded out a 55-51 while the Wildcats’ best player, Bailey Henington, sat out with an ankle injury.
In Tuesday’s game, East Union (5-0) picked apart Sonora’s press defense to mount a 17-6 lead. The Lancers were ahead 33-23 at halftime, but Sonora doesn’t typically go down easily at its place. The Wildcats sank four 3s in the third quarter and outscored East Union 22-9 to lead heading into the fourth.
Post players Anna Wood (16 points, eight rebounds) and Rena Dragony (eight points, 10 rebounds) helped restore order in the fourth for the Lancers, playing tough interior defense while grabbing key boards.
The game turned in their favor for good after Jordyn Posz hit Olivia Vezaldenos for a 3 on an inbounds play to give East Union a three-point lead near the midway point of the fourth. On Sonora’s following possession, Ruby Dauby stripped the ball handler at the top of the key and took it the other way for an easy transition bucket. The Lancers rolled from there.
Dauby paced East Union with 19 points, five rebounds and four steals. Vezaldenos finished with 14 points, six assists and five rebounds. Sandra Renda fired 22 points for Sonora, while Henginton, a fourth-year varsity starter, ended with 15.
“As a coach you want to see how a team handles adversity early in the year and on the road,” Agostini said. “The girls responded really well.”
East Union next competes in the Tracy Breakfast Lions/Tom Hawkins Tournament on Friday and opens with Modesto. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Tracy High’s Swenson Gym.
Weston Ranch 48,
The Cougars didn’t allow more than four points in each quarter and were well ahead 33-4 by halftime.
Phyllis Strothers led the way with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Allyson Chang contributed nine points, and Justice Stitt had eight.