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Lancers hold off Manteca to stay in playoff hunt
East Unions Nayeli Del Real (25) pulls down the rebound in front of Mantecas Jessica Hasal (5) and Allison Rachels (22) during the Lancers 58-45 VOL victory over the Buffaloes at Dalben Center on Thursday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

East Union point guard Olivia Vezaldenos remained hot and put together a flashy performance during a 58-45 Valley Oak League victory over cross-town rival Manteca.

The Lancers’ standout sophomore, who was coming off of a 40-point performance on Tuesday, netted 26 more to go with four boards, five steals and three assists on Thursday against the Buffaloes (4-8 VOL, 7-18 overall).

“As an opposing coach, you kind of hope she’s going to cool off,” Manteca head coach Cody Norman said. “But she was still knocking shots down and still feeling it. That will either propel (East Union) into the playoffs, or it could be something that stops them.”

The Lancers are currently in a third-place tie with Sonora as both trail Weston Ranch and Kimball in the VOL standings. Only the top three teams will make the postseason, and East Union will head up the hill to Sonora on Tuesday for what could decide the VOL’s final playoff berth.

The Lancers have won eight of their last 10.

“We’re excited we’re playing our best ball in February,” East Union head coach Jim Agostini said. “We lost some pivotal games in January, but our kids have shown we can battle back and get back into this (playoff) race.”

East Union (7-5, 16-8) pulled away in the third quarter when it went on a 20-12 run after the half. The Lancers led Manteca by seven after the first quarter and went into the locker room ahead 24-20.

East Union freshman Loretta Kakala (13 points, seven rebounds) scored the first bucket of the third frame to make it 26-20. Manteca, which was led by Jessica Hasal’s 12 points, never got any closer than four during the second half.

“Our girls played hard,” Norman said. “EU just made more guarded shots than we did. Hasal led the team in scoring, but (Elizabeth) Tolbert and (Abigail) Behler have both stepped up.

“Once we can get all five players on the court to step up, we’re going to see more shots go in, we’re going to get more deflections and more rebounds to where it doesn’t side with our opponent.”

Tolbert and Behler each scored 11 for Manteca, which received two of its four total 3s from Hasal in the fourth quarter.

The Buffaloes’ senior guard hit one triple to cut her team’s deficit to nine with less than five minutes left and then hit a step-back trey that made it 51-43 with four minutes remaining.

The story was mostly Vezaldenos, however.

The Lancers’ floor general pushed the ball hard and tallied 15 of her total in the second half. She finished the third quarter with a 3-ball at the buzzer that made it a 12-point game heading into the fourth. Vezaldenos also scored 10 of her squad’s 16 in the final eight minutes.

“We had to dial her in a little bit, and she got comfortable there in the second half,” Agostini added.

The older Vezaldenos, senior Victoria, finished with six – as did Marina Salyer.

Salyer had five in the fourth frame, including a 3-ball and the last two free throws of the night.

East Union had 11 steals and outrebounded Manteca 27-21. Chelsea Gomez added six for the Buffaloes, who will host Sierra on Saturday before closing league play on the road at Oakdale Tuesday.

The Lancers will be at Weston Ranch on Saturday, followed by Sonora during the season finale.

“It’s all on the line, and we’ll check the stacks at the end,” Agostini concluded.


Manteca 45, East Union 36

Aryanna Martinez led the Buffaloes with 15 and Leah Manuleleua added 10 in a victory over East Union (6-6, 16-7). The Lancers were led by Jordan Posz’s 11 points. Jessica Pablo pitched in with eight.


Manteca 39, East Union 21

The Buffaloes picked up the victory despite the Lancers’ Alaina Haena (8) and Sophie Williamson (6) combining for 14 points.