The game had long been decided, but East Union relished its 54-27 victory after the final horn sounded at Manteca High’s Winter Gym on Friday.
Earning a win at their crosstown rival’s house was nice, but wins have been hard to come by for the Lancers (2-4, 11-7 overall) in the first half of Valley Oak League play. Some bad breaks led to their 1-4 start in league, which included three defeats by a total of nine points.
“A win his hard to get in the VOL,” said Lancer point guard Olivia Vezaldenos. “We’ve had some close losses that we could have won, so it feels absolutely great to get one like this.”
Vezaldenos dazzled from the outset, scoring the first two buckets of the game in transition after picking off Manteca ball handlers. The sophomore finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, eight steals, five blocks and three assists.
“She can get into some grooves, and as a coach you just don’t get in her way,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said.
Freshman Loretta Kakala had 15 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks despite sitting out the entire second quarter with foul trouble. Both of East Union’s starting bigs were sidelined with foul trouble for most of the first half, as Anna Wood was whistled for her second infraction just 1 minute, 55 seconds into the game.
The Lancers still led 11-3 going into the second quarter and were up 21-6 at one point before Manteca (2-4, 5-14) mounted a late 7-0 run. Vezaldenos hit a jumper from the free-throw line with 5.5 seconds to go, as East Union sat on a 23-13 halftime cushion.
“Things don’t always go perfect so you want to check to see how you handle adversity,” Agostini said. “As a coach you really applaud the girls in that situation. We had players get into foul trouble and called on the next one in line to come in and do their job. (The reserves) carried on the effort on defense.”
Defense was an area of emphasis for the Lancers following Tuesday’s 71-45 loss to first-place Weston Ranch. They limited the Buffaloes to just five points over the final 11-plus minutes of the game and didn’t give up a field goal in that stretch until Chelsea Gomez’s put-back layup in the closing seconds.
“Last practice we focused on defense,” Vezaldenos said. “Our offense is coming together, but we really needed to step up our weak-side defense. It was a good, hard-defensive effort and that’s what coach wanted.”
Allison Rachels led Manteca with 10 points and six rebounds. She sank three 3-pointers and converted a four-point play early in the third quarter to close the Buffaloes in 29-20. That was the last time they trailed by a single-digit margin.
Jessica Hasal added nine points and four assists for Manteca, and East Union’s Victoria Vezaldenos contributed eight points.
East Union 27
Aryanna Martinez was the lone double-digit scorer of the game with 10 points, helping Manteca (5-0, 11-2 overall) retain the top spot in the VOL. Rubel Dehal and Jade Griffin chipped in nine and eight points, respectively.
Jessica Pablo fired nine points to pace East Union (3-3, 12-4).
East Union 16
J.J. Santos poured in 16 points and eight steals to spearhead the rout. Malia Parangan fired 15 points, and Lejla Pepic chipped in 11.