Kimball put its best defender on East Union’s best shooter on the final play of Tuesday’s Valley Oak League opener at Dalben Center.
With 2 seconds left and a chance to send the game into overtime, Gyse Hulsebosch corralled the inbounds pass from Chris Molina and, with 6-foot-2 V.J. Obiajulu guarding him closely, launched a 3 from the deep wing. The attempt sailed well short of rim and the Jaguars of Tracy escaped with a 46-43 victory.
Kimball (1-0 VOL, 6-5 overall) led from whistle to buzzer and avenged its 53-50 loss to the Lancers (6-7). That was back on Dec. 20 in the West/Tracy Winter Holiday Classic, and Tuesday’s game was the Jaguars’ first one since. Having not won a game in nearly three weeks, they were understandably jubilant after warding off East Union, which trailed by as much as 16 late in the first half.
“We had a little bit of time to prepare,” Kimball’s first-year coach Justin Gregory said. “We came out very strong and we talked about good starts. Unfortunately we didn’t maintain that but we knew East Union is a great team, it’s their home court and they were going to come out strong in the third.
“We withstood that and it was back and forth. Had we hit some free throws I think we would have been in a better position, but any win on the road in this league is a great win.”
Kimball was 6 for 18 on free throws while East Union made nine of 13.
The Lancers struggled to contain the active Obaijulu in the first half, when he poured in 10 of his team-high 12 points. Rubin Mann added 10 points and nine rebounds as nine different Jaguars scored.
“I think the difference tonight was on the defensive end,” East Union coach Ryan Tarr said. “We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds in that first half and they were able to get a lot of easy buckets and they were able to set up the press. We had a tough time getting any flow.”
Molina spearheaded East Union’s comeback charge. The energetic sophomore pulled down all nine of his rebounds, seven on the offensive end, in the second half and scored 10 of his 13 points in that stretch. Hulsebosch finished with 11 points, and Arvind Singh scored nine off three 3-pointers.
Down 31-16 at halftime, East Union opened the third quarter with a 13-2 run. Cody Keener later scored the first points in the fourth with a one-handed slam in transition to close the Lancers in, 39-34. Molina’s put-back layup with 1:21 to go made it 44-43.
Sai Padhy sank two free throws to cap the final score with 19.1 seconds left, and East Union turned the ball over on its ensuing possession and was forced to foul. Jhordin Mellion missed the front end of the 1-and-1, giving the Lancers one last shot to extend the game.
“There were two options,” Tarr said. “Obviously we would have liked an open look, but anytime we can get Gyse a look that’s what we want.”
It doesn’t get easier for East Union, which takes a three-game losing streak to its next home game against reigning VOL champion Sierra on Thursday.
“I told the guys after the game there isn’t going to be an easy night,” Tarr said. “There are no guaranteed wins. Every night is going to be a tough game.”
East Union 44, Kimball 40
Delvon Bradford fired all 15 of his points in the second half and hit some big 3s down the stretch for the Squires. P.J. Gill contributed 13 points to the victory.
East Union 50, Kimball 40
Blake Greenlee netted 16 points, and Grant Silva scored 12 to help East Union improve to 8-1 overall.