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Lancers’ pressure defense too much for Pioneer
Pioneer-East Union girls basketball
East Union's Lani Tu'uga (1) looks to drive inside of Pioneer's Ava Contreras (3). - photo by Dave Campbell

No. 3 East Union nabbed 23 steals Thursday night and limited visiting 14th-seeded Pioneer to single digits in three periods on the way to a 69-31 first-round Lancers win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Girls Basketball Playoffs at Dalben Center. East Union next hosts No. 6 Los Banos on Monday at 7 p.m. in quarterfinal action

“Our defensive pressure is something we have been working on all year,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “You just try and get your team ready for this tournament we are in and get yourself playing your best basketball right now. When you have a team come out in a playoff game and force 23 steals along with 14 assists, that’s pretty good.

“We’ve been that team on the other side of the bench – a 14 or 15 seed and go play up in the hills in the Del Oros or Rocklins and just get smacked just like in this game. Our team is locked in defensively, and they know what they need to do every night. We can shoot the ball so-so, but defense can’t be so-so.”

Taylor Snaer (three rebounds, three assists, three steals) and Ala Tu’uga (five rebounds, five steals) each scored 15 points to pace the Lancers (22-3).

“Defense and communication made the difference tonight,” Tu’uga said. “I normally don’t get a whole lot of steals, so for me five was a big accomplishment and the amount we got as a team was pretty cool.”

Lani Tu’uga (13 points, six rebounds, four assists, block) led the stifling East Union defense with seven steals.

“Our defense really improved tonight,” Lani Tu’uga said. “I am really proud of how we stepped up our defense.

“I just follow the ball wherever it goes. When I see I have a chance at it, I time it and go for it.”

Donnese Payne (five points) pulled down 12 rebounds for the Lancers and recent junior-varsity call-up Alexa Zuniga came off the bench in the fourth quarter to score five points.

Keziah Maldonado-Lemus of the Pioneers from Woodland (17-9) led all scorers with 22 points.