East Union’s girls basketball team was making it a habit to start games sluggishly this season.
Looking to reverse the trend, head coach Jim Agostini made himself open to suggestions to his players. They gave their input, the coaches touched up the game plan and voila.
“Since that little bit of communication we’ve been getting off to some good starts,” Agostini said.
Thursday’s Valley Oak League contest with visiting Lathrop was proof of that. Mixing in a three-quarter defense with some zones in half-court situations, the Lancers staggered Lathrop with a 13-1 run out the gate and rode the momentum to a 52-32 rout.
The win is their fifth in six games and keeps them a game back of third-place Sonora in the hunt for a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth. Only the top three teams in the VOL qualify.
“Every game down the stretch is big for us,” Agostini said. “We’re vying for a spot (in the playoffs) and the girls are still working very hard for it. We respect Lathrop; we had a tough game at their place earlier in the year so we prepared well for them.”
East Union (5-5 VOL, 14-8 overall) was paced by two freshmen– 6-foot-2 center Loretta Kakala poured in 17 points and seven rebounds, while guard Ruby Dauby scored 14 points. Sophomore Olivia Vezaldenos added 13 points, seven assists and seven steals.
Dauby keyed the Lancers’ early barrage, scoring seven of her team’s first nine points. She opened scoring with a 3-pointer from the wing just 16 seconds into the game, and she struck again twice in transition. East Union has lacked a consistent third scorer this season, and Dauby could be emerging as a go-to option.
“She was getting more frustrated as the year progressed because she’s used to scoring a lot of points,” Agostini said. “At the varsity level you have to have patience and continue to work at it, and she’s a gym rat who definitely puts in the work. Tonight, she knocked down shots early and you can see the confidence go up.”
Lathrop (2-8, 6-16) struggled all game with turnovers, finishing with 32. The Spartans coughed up the ball on their first three possessions of the game, and it continued to plague them as they totaled 13 giveaways in the third period alone.
“Our problem all year has been unforced turnovers,” Lathrop coach Ed Fang said. “We’re making bad decisions with the ball and we don’t (value) our possessions as much as we should. When a team presses we (tend to) want to rush things and try to get a shot right away. We’ve been fighting that all year.”
Lathrop trailed 15-2 until Loreal Taylor converted its first field goal with 2:05 left in the opening frame. East Union led 15-6. The Lancers opened the door for the Spartans to mount a comeback as they went 5 minutes, 15 seconds without scoring at one point in the first half. Victoria Vezaldenos ended the dry spell with a layup off an inbounds pass from her sister Olivia with 5:08 left in the second quarter. That stretched East Union’s lead to 17-8.
The Lancers maintained control the rest of the way, even as Taylor, Lathrop’s best player, began to heat up. She scored all eight of the Spartan’s third-quarter points and ended up with 17 to go with eight rebounds.
“You try to crowd Taylor a little bit to keep her from getting going, but she’s a heck of a player,” Agostini said. “She demands a lot of attention.”
East Union 45,
The Squires (6-4, 16-5) were well ahead 31-7 at halftime and cruised from there. Jordyn Posz led the way with 15 points, and Marcella Salyer chipped in with eight.