By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Lancers last minute push falls flat in rivalry game
Manteca High guard Kiwi Gardner goes up for a shot while East Union’s Tyler Bylow and Ricky Inderbitzen attempt to slow him down. For additional photos visit - photo by Photo by CHRIS LEONARD
With only 2.6 seconds left on the clock and down by two points, the East Union Lancers found themselves in the unique position of beating the Valley Oak League’s best team at Manteca High’s sold out Winter Gym.

With Ernie Pimentel, one of the Buffaloes’ best shooters of the night, at the free-throw line with a chance to extend the lead to three, East Union caught a break when he missed the first attempt and caught another when he sunk the second to give the Lancers an opportunity to set up the final shot.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time on the clock to allow for anything short of a toss-up prayer, and the Lancers ended up falling to their longtime cross town rivals 83-81.

“That’s what you expect with a Manteca High versus East Union game,” said Manteca head coach Dave Asuncion. “We wanted to advance the ball inside a little bit more tonight because the last thing we wanted to do was get in a shooting contest with a team that can shoot like they can – get our big guys going up and get them in foul trouble.

“That was a tough three-game stretch for us, but hopefully we’ll do a better job on the little things like rebounds so we can get out of the first round of the playoffs.”

The Lancers (8-8 in league, 13-13 overall) got off to a hot start as Manteca opted to start all of their seniors in honor of their last regular-season home game and took a commanding a nine point lead.

But Pimentel, a senior, made his mark early by helping close the gap through precise free throw shooting and strong inside play, netting 11 of his 29 points in the first half alone.

As the game went on, however, Manteca (15-1, 22-5) started to find its own rhythm and midway through the third quarter had tied the game at 40 to spark what would be a barnburner in the truest sense.

“I just came out tonight expecting us to win like I do every time I come out onto the court,” Pimentel said. “This was our big rivalry and it was a chance to play out in front of your friends and your family and the entire town.

“But as a team we’ve definitely bonded and we’ve become the best of friends, and when it comes to basketball we all come out and work hard to get the job done.”

Manteca standout Kiwi Gardner – who introduced his senior teammates at the start of the night – played a pivotal role in the third quarter by hitting four 3-pointers shots during a stretch that gave Manteca the lead and the swagger they would need to pull off the victory.

Gardner finished the night with 27 points and seven rebounds.

“This was a game for us to get ready for playoffs,” Gardner said. “We started off kind of slow, but eventually we got into a groove. It wasn’t our best game, but a great team finds a way to win even when they’re not playing their best.”

East Union’s Robert Vaughn almost single-handedly dealt the VOL upset of the year with his 29-point performance – dazzling the packed house with a combination of reverse layups, solid jump shots, and outside shooting.

Teejay Gordon contributed with 15 points, while Tyler Bylow finished with 12.

“The only way I could be prouder of how my guys played tonight is if we were walking out of here with a victory,” East Union head coach Brett Lewis said. “We definitely represented our school and the situation was primed for an upset. We tried our best but Manteca weathered our storm and held down the house.”