East Union may have jumped out to a double-digit first quarter lead and defeated host Sierra by double digits, but the Timberwolves came alive after opening period and were outscored by just two points over the last three quarters in a 70-55 loss girls Valley Oak League basketball action.
“For us, we are a young team,” Sierra coach Kayla Torio said. Her roster includes seven freshmen and two sophomores with just one senior.
“And I keep saying it but this season is a learning season. Each game our young ones are showing more and more that they are more and more able to step up to the plate and fight to the end.”
Inessa Villanueva started the resurgence for the Timberwolves (1-7 VOL, 12-11 overall) when she hit all of her 11 points in the second period behind three of her team’s 10 3-pointers. Teammate Brianna Parker (six steals) hit four from behind the arc – three in the fourth quarter – and led Sierra with 14 points. Mickey Guarascio added 10 points with two 3-pointers.
“We really are a 3-point shooting team,” Torio said. “Tonight we had a lot of good movement and we were able to get a lot of those shots off, especially in the second half. We had a slow start, but catching our momentum took us a little bit. After the half we stepped up and worked together and communicated better which allowed us to get those shots off quicker.”
While Sierra may have dominated the perimeter, East Union (7-1, 20-4) dominated in the paint, outrebounding the Timberwolves 39-24. The Lancers continued their domination of the series, having not lost to Sierra since 2005.
Ala Tu'uga was one of three East Union players with double-doubles, hitting 19 points while pulling in 13 rebounds.
“We played our hardest,” Tu’uga said. “Rebounding is something we work a lot on in practice.”
Kyshanti King led the Lancers with 20 points along with six rebounds and six steals.
“We just kept our heads up,” King said. “We were remembering our all-star Kobe and wanted to stay motivated and do it for him.
“As a team we had to stay positive, because negativity isn’t going to get you anywhere. We have to stay positive and chase out goals.”
One of the reasons for the East Union blitz to start the game was forcing nine Sierra turnovers in the first quarter.
“I thought our defense early was much better which got us off to a good start,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “In the second and third quarters we didn’t play as good at defense as we did in the beginning.
“But offensively, you score 70 points that is usually good enough and it was good enough to get us our 20th win of the season. We have run the table after our loss to Kimball to get to the next Kimball game which is Thursday and we will have to play that one a whole lot better.”
Lani Tu'uga added 16 points with 12 rebounds for the Lancers along with four assists, two steals and two blocks. Taylor Snaer chipped in 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“For us to have three young ladies with double-doubles is impressive,” Agostini said. “This game of girls basketball is evolving.
“And with the tragedy that we just had women’s basketball may have lost its greatest ambassador (Kobe Bryant) as well as three young ladies who played the game. Kobe was awesome as a player, by the was going to do better things with women’s basketball and he was going to do great things for the game to evolve.”