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Quick-striking flurry helps EU avoid upset
Stephanie Vanni looks for an open Sierra teammate to dish it off to as East Union’s Salina Tiscareno harasses her with full-court pressure. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Sierra High, with its top player out for undisclosed reasons, was within striking distance of four-time defending Valley Oak League girls basketball champion East Union late in the third quarter Thursday at Dalben Center.

Rugged post player Jordan Johnson, making up for the absence of 5-foot-10 standout Alysia Atkins, had scored six straight for the visiting Timberwolves to close them in 32-30 with 18 seconds left in the period.

The most pivotal stretch of the contest ensued and led to East Union’s 48-41 win — its 10th straight against its crosstown rival.

 The Lancers (6-2, 14-15 overall) used an 8-0 run spanning 25 seconds to separate themselves.

Briona Fontenot knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing with 7 seconds to go in the third, and after a turnover reserve guard Alison Telles rattled in a long jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer. Then 14 seconds into final period, Morgan Hulsebosch cashed in a 3-pointer for EU’s first double-digit lead of the night, 40-30.

East Union led by as much as 11, but Mallory Weiler gave Sierra some hope late after hitting back-to-back buckets, the latter of which was a 3 from the corner with 1:05 to go, to make it 45-39.

Sierra hasn’t beaten East Union since Feb. 9, 2006.

“Sierra competes every time they play,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “They had a situation where they were missing a player, and they still played well. You gotta tip your hat to them.

“The girls did what they had to do, and we had some different players do some nice things for us.”

Lexy Posz led the Lancers with 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals; while three players — Salina Tiscareno, Shalane Jackson (7 rebounds) and Fontenot — had seven apiece.

Johnson, who played nearly every minute and was oftentimes seen gasping for air, finished with 17 points and 18 rebounds for Sierra (3-5, 11-8).

“Tonight, we were missing a big part of our team, so I had to step it up a lot without having very many breaks,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we’ll have Alysia back next week. As long as we fight like we did tonight, we’ll be alright.”

It was chess match in which both teams played to their strengths. While East Union prefers to get up and down the court with its fleet platoon of guards, Sierra was able to keep it at a more manageable pace and had control of the pain with its posts. Sierra outrebounded EU, 39-25.

The Timberwolves forced East Union to hurt them from the perimeter by committing to a 2-3 zone. To the Lancers’ credit, they converted six 3-pointers and scored the majority of their points outside of the paint.

 “We played the way we were capable of playing,” Sierra coach Steve Unterholzner said. “I’m proud of them. We pride ourselves on defense and controlling (the tempo of) the game and I think we were able to do that tonight.”