East Union bolted out to a big lead Monday, mustered just one point in the third quarter and came from behind to defeat Gregori 36-33 for fifth place in the Tracy Breakfast Lions/Tom Hawkins Tournament at Tracy High’s Swenson Gym.
The Lancers (8-3) led 17-7 after one quarter and held the Jaguars (9-5) to just two points in the second for what seemed to be a commanding 25-9 halftime lead.
Then the pendulum swung back the other way. East Union went cold in the third and lost the lead in the fourth, but big free throws down the stretch – including one by all-tourney selection Olivia Vezaldenos with 18 seconds remaining – sealed Gregori’s fate.
“I wish I could have made both of those free throws at the end, but one was big because it put us up by three,” Vezaldenos said. “It was a great game and a great team effort. We played hard and I am glad we came away with the win.”
Vezaldenos shared high-point honors with freshman teammate Loretta Kakala, who missed nearly half the game with foul trouble. Kakala hit two of her seven free throws with 55 seconds remaining to put the Lancers ahead, 35-31.
“We practice free throws a lot,” Kakala said. “I have to learn how to stay out of trouble, playing hard but controlling myself.”
The Jaguars had problems with the East Union defense early on, and it turns out it was a new defensive look for the Lancers.
“We just threw that defense in today and I thought the girls showed good basketball IQ with it,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “I like that we played aggressive; you have to be attacking the rim to get fouls called on you like we did.”
Between not scoring a second-half field goal until the fourth quarter and their best post player in Kakala watching on with four trouble, the Lancers eventually yielded the lead with 5:35 left in the game on a fast-break layup. One minute later Vezaldenos hit two free throws that put East Union ahead for good at 31-29.
“We fought through adversity with that third quarter and foul trouble,” Agostini said. “We made some free throws down the stretch and toward the end we took care of the ball a lot better.
“We have been playing here for all 14 years that I have been at EU, and to win three out of four is pretty good. We have had one other team win it all so three quality wins is good.”
The Lancers won the battle of the boards 38-24 with Kakala grabbing eight rebounds, and Vezaldenos, Madison Hoffman and Anna Wood getting seven each.
Lathrop 36, Modesto 8
In the 11th-place game at West High, the Spartans shut out the Panthers (3-9) in the second quarter and gave up no more than three points in the other three periods.
Lauren Collins led Lathrop (4-8) with 11 points, six steals and five rebounds. Akilah Lesley added 10 points, three rebounds and three steals and Loreal Taylor snagged 13 rebounds.
Tokay 40, Manteca 37
The Buffaloes battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter but turned the ball over in the end to suffer a heart-breaking loss.
Jessica Hasal scored19 points behind four 3-pointers for Manteca, which ended up placing 14th.
“I look at our team and see us as a 7-4 team, not 3-8 because we’ve lost four games by one or two possessions. We’re going through the growing pains with league right around the corner.”