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Lancers knock off Sonora for outright lead of VOL
Jackson charges EU back from 15-6 deficit
East Union guard Rachel McDaniel gets around Sonora’s Allison Perry in the open court. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
Sonora got the right person the ball at the right spot and the right time.

The only thing that went wrong for the Wildcats was the end result.

Sharpshooting guard Kelli Keefe heaved a desperation 3-pointer from the left wing with East Union defender Ashley Rose playing her tight at the buzzer.

 But her attempt to send Thursday’s showdown between the Valley Oak League’s first-place teams into overtime caromed off the front of the rim, as Rose and her fellow Lancers raised their arms in relief and triumph, 44-41, at Dalben Center.

East Union (7-1, 20-1 overall) retook sole possession atop the conference standings with the victory. In their last meeting in Sonora Jan. 8, the Wildcats (6-2, 11-8) were handled, 49-31.

“As much as we tried to keep this game as low key as we could for our players, they know what it is,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “They know what’s at stake because they’re competitors. And they were magnificent tonight.”

But at the start, it was the Sonora’s magnificent seven (the Wildcats really only have seven on the roster) that landed the first big blow.

Led by Keefe, Sonora mounted a 15-6 first-quarter lead with its perimeter gunner accounting for 11 of those points.  On the defensive end, the Wildcats forced East Union to commit 11 turnovers.

“Teams are going to come out with a lot of energy against us, and we have to try and match that energy,” Agostini said. “I don’t think we did, but we weathered it without getting ourselves too deep in the hole.”

East Union stormed back with a 16-3 run in the second, which was capped off by Shalane Jackson’s layup set up beautifully by Lexy Posz’s entry pass for the Lancers’ first lead of the game, 22-20, with 2:44 left in the half.

Jackson, a freshman forward, finished with 15 points and seven rebounds to lead all scorers. Jackson scored 14 of her 15 in the paint and was on the receiving end of nice feeds from Rachel McDaniel and Ashley Rose — the Lancers’ top scorers who were the focus of Sonora’s defensive efforts.

McDaniel pumped in 14 points, four assists and four steals; and Rose had nine points on three 3-pointers.

“When you’re playing a team with so many good players they’re always capable of coming back like that,” Sonora coach Lloyd Longeway said. “But even when they got on that run, our girls continued to play their hearts out. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Sonora never recaptured the lead but did well to stay close despite falling behind by as much as nine early in the third. The Wildcats thrice cut the deficit to one in the second half, and Allison Perry made one of two free throws with 52.7 seconds remaining in the contest to make it 42-41.

East Union center Alyssa Wegner capped the final score with a tough layup in traffic with 25 seconds to go and intercepted a pass on Sonora’s ensuing possession.

McDaniel missed a one-and-one free throw with eight seconds left, and Sonora grabbed the board and rushed upcourt to set up Keefe’s final shot.

Keefe paced the Wildcats with 13 points.

Wegner and fellow post Rachel O’Neal (11 rebounds) combined to hold Sonora’s top player, 6-foot-2 sophomore center Raven Anderson, to six points and 10 boards.

The Lancers have little time to celebrate one of their biggest wins with two dangerous teams waiting next week. First is Ceres (5-3, 9-11) on the road Tuesday, then Weston Ranch (4-4, 14-7) at home Thursday. Weston Ranch is responsible for their only blemish of the season.

“These teams in the VOL keep getting better as the season goes on,” Agostini said. “Did we play our best tonight? I’d say not, so that just means we need to keep getting better, too.”