East Union’s Lauren Pablo drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first half to break a tie, and Lancers teammates Donja Payne and Sarah Gleockler were a big part of an 11-0 run to start the second half as the Lancers stunned first-place Manteca 55-43 in the Valley Oak League finale at Dalben Center, forcing the Buffaloes to share the league championship with Kimball.
“We were right there with Kimball for the least points allowed per game coming into this one,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “And although we didn’t achieve our goal of getting a league title, we played good and we had a final say in the outcome of the league race.
“But Manteca and Kimball did what they had to do to win the VOL. Congratulations to them.”
After a back-and-forth first half, Gleockler (nine points, five assists) fed Payne (26 points, 20 rebounds, four blocks) for three consecutive baskets underneath. Payne then scored on a putback and Gleockler followed that with an assist to Jaha Scott who converted a three-point play to push East Union (9-3 VOL, 18-9 overall) to a 39-25 lead.
“We work on that all the time,” Agostini said of Gleockler’s passing. “We work on dribble penetration and I thought we did a great job of making the extra pass.”
Manteca (10-2, 19-8) was held scoreless for more than five minutes to start the second half before Kyaira Jacobs (16 points, five rebounds, two assists, steal) the last five points of the period for the Buffaloes to draw Manteca within 41-32.
“East Union played a great defensive game tonight,” Buffaloes coach Ryan Bono said. “I think we came out a little flat but I think a lot of that was East Union. They came out with a lot of energy and the crowd was behind them.”
Payne accomplished her massive double-double after missing most of the second quarter in foul trouble and without her post mate Ala Tuuga, who was ill.
“Donja is doing what she does with defenses geared up to stop her every night,” Agostini said. “I am so proud of her on her senior night.”
Friday marked the final regular-season game for Payne, who has started since she was a freshman.
“This was a very special night,” Payne said. “I have been playing in this program starting on the varsity for four years and I give my all for this team.”
Scott filled in for Tuuga and performed well, scoring 13 points.
“It was great to have a chance to play on my senior night,” Scott said. “So I went for it.”
Pablo finished with seven points with none as big as her 3-pointer to end the first half.
Jaslyn Woods scored 11 points and six rebounds for Buffaloes and Jayda Jackson had eight points and four rebounds.
Agostini is grateful for the memories his girls will take from Friday night.
“Everyone has senior nights every year,” Agostini said. “And you don’t get to have one like this very often.
“For a girls game to have a crowd like this with Winterfest and for the seniors to be able to play a game like this against their rival is a good memory to take with them. Not every high school kid gets to experience that.”
The season will continue for both teams next week in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs beginning on Tuesday.
Weston Ranch 65, Sierra 49
Everyone scored for the host Cougars in the season finale for both teams.
“The kids came out hard and they came out and competed and Sierra came out and played hard as well but it was good to see the seniors get a win on senior night and be able to celebrate on their home court.”
Kyshanti King led Weston Ranch (5-7, 12-14) with 19 points and Jennalyn Laminero added 13.
Inessa Villanueva 19 shared high-point honors with King and led the Timberwolves (3-9, 13-13) with 19 points. Jordan Hayter and Natalie Dias shipped in seven points apiece.
East Union 41, Manteca 39
Karina Schambeck hit two free throws for the Lancers with 16.5 seconds remaining to spot East Union to a 41-38 lead. This came a scant six seconds after Manteca’s Gio Jiminez buried a 3-pointer to draw the Buffaloes within 39-38.
Jiminez scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and Danielle James paced the Lancers with 15 points behind a pair of 3-pointers.