East Union’s Donja Payne can turn a game around.
With her Lancers stumbling to a five-point halftime lead Tuesday and Payne missing most of the second quarter with foul trouble, the East Union freshman ignited a 10-point Lancers blitz to start the second half on the way to a 46-30 win over visiting Lathrop in Valley Oak League girls basketball action at Dalben Center.
“It took us a while to get going tonight,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “Credit Lathrop for that with their energy and competitiveness.
“We can’t be prefect offensively every night and we talk about it all the time how the offense can have an off night and our defense can’t, and I thought our defense ignited us in the second half. Those transitions we had to start the third quarter were all off of defensive pressure.”
The normally high-octane offense for the Lancers (10-0 VOL, 22-1 overall) was mainly absent in the first half with East Union leading 18-13 going into halftime.
Payne had six of the 10 fast-break points to start the East Union second half and had 12 of her game-high 17 points in the period. She had a double-double and flirted with a triple double with 13 rebounds, seven blocks and two steals.
“I got some really good passes in the second half,” Payne said. “And we boxed out well.”
Payne and Ciara Goodwin (12 rebounds, two blocks) combined for 12 first-quarter rebounds.
“Ciara and I work really well together,” Payne said. “We have played together for two years now.”
Olivia Vezaldenos scored six of her 12 points in the fourth period and had six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“We came out a little too relaxed and didn’t respect the game of basketball at the beginning,” Vezaldenos said. “We thought it was going to be an easy win and you can’t do that in this league.
“Coach got on us in the locker room and told us that our defense was lacking. We are a good defensive team and in the second half we knew what we had to do and we did it.”
Vezaldenos’ perimeter mate Ruby Daube did not have a shot from the field in the first half and finished with nine points.
“We had a slow start,” Daube said. “We went into the locker room at halftime and coach told us that defense was going to turn the game around for us because defense has been the key for us the whole season.
“So we came out in the second half and played defense and our whole energy changed and our whole game changed.”
The Lancers won the battle of the boards 43-30 and had 10 steals and 10 blocks.
After staying close the first half the Spartans (5-5, 11-9) were held to just five points in the third period.
‘We can’t have any let-ups,” Lathrop coach Dwayne Davis said. “We can defend any team but you can’t afford to give up easy buckets against the good teams. Sometimes with our youth we don’t understand that we will struggle to score when we don’t share the ball.
“I am used to having everyone score six or seven points apiece but when we have the ball in one person’s hand we struggle. So when we move the ball we are going to be pretty good and once we get our young sophomore (Heaven Hudson) up to snuff where she understands that will help us a lot more offensively,”
Hudson has no problem on the defensive end of the floor as she had 13 rebounds and a block.
“I have been watching her since the beginning of the year,” Davis said of Hudson. “She is just so active.
“She is always in the right place and she gets those loose balls, those 50-50 balls we weren’t getting earlier in the season before we called her up.”
Semajynique Steen led the Spartans with 10 points.
Lathrop has road games left against Central Catholic and Kimball and at home against Weston Ranch and Sierra.
“We have put ourselves in a hole where we have to win our last four games,” Davis said. “If we win our last four games we finish third in league and right now that is our goal.”
Lathrop 48, East Union 41
The Spartans used a balanced attack for the win.
Kiara Gray and Mary Cotton led Lathrop with nine points each while Juliana Denning, Analisa Garcia and Pearl Cotton each added eight points.
Nina Murphy had 13 points for the Lancers and Mariah James 12.
East Union 40, Lathrop 35
Chelsey Costa paced the Lancers with nine points and Julia Vezaldenos added seven.
The Spartans’ Iyani Knight led all scorers with 12 points and Jordan Corner chipped in eight.