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Lancers run out of gas against Liberty
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TRACY — Jim Agostini burned his final timeout with 1:33 left in regulation, hoping to get his East Union girls basketball team one last breather.

Inside the huddle, Agostini pleaded with his club to secure the win with a few more stops and a few more buckets. 

Summon the energy, he begged, and protect the basketball.

At that point, though, the Lancers’ lead was shaky and so too were their legs.

Liberty erased a five-point deficit in the final minutes of regulation and then outscored the Lancers 13-4 in overtime to secure an 80-71 victory in the Tracy Breakfast Lions/Tom Hawkins consolation championship.

Anna Wood had a season-best performance, finishing with 24 points and 15 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to keep East Union from sputtering.

“The team was gassed,” Agostini said. “Tip your hat to the other team. That was an exciting high school basketball game. You had high school players going up and down the floor, knocking down shots.”

The Lancers led most of the fourth quarter, but Liberty’s Jamesha Green and a relentless full-court press kept East Union (7-2) from separating.

Green scored a game-high 27 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. Each time the Lancers’ lead would reach five points, Green would respond with either an acrobatic layup or a contested jump shot.

“(Green) was a special player. She was getting to the rim,” Agostini said. “It was like watching the Easter Bunny the way she was hopping through our defense.”

Green scored six straight points for Liberty to close the gap to one, 61-60 with 2:24 left. However, it was her unselfishness that launched Liberty’s last-gasp dash to victory. 

After Hayley Reyes connected on a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 65-63, forcing Agostini to burn his final timeout, Green found Reyes in transition for the tying bucket.

The game would go into overtime tied at 67s.

The 5-foot-8 junior would tack on six more points in the extra period, including a three-point play to seal the win and the fifth-place trophy.

Liberty’s trick for wearing down the Lancers, a team that had lost just once in its first eight games of the season? 

Pace and pressure.

East Union struggled against Liberty’s full-court press and up-tempo style, committing 25 turnovers. At times, the Lancers couldn’t get out of their own way.

Immediately following Agostini’s last timeout in regulation, East Union turned the ball over, fueling Liberty’s comeback.

“You come to tournaments like this to be battle-tested. We’re all trying to get battle-tested for league play. We’ve had numerous teams play different types of styles,” Agostini said. “We had a team tonight that played a nice up-tempo style, pressing full court which we loved.

“I want the girls to attack. If teams want to go full court ... we like that. But we also have to take care of the basketball, especially down the stretch. We talk about it all the time — value the possession.”

Olivia Vezaldenos had 16 points and eight assists and fellow guard Ruby Daube had 11 points and four assists for the Lancers, who host Downey on Friday. 

Daube was named to the all-tournament team.

Wood established herself early, scoring 15 of her team-high 24 points in the first half as East Union took a 34-29 lead.

With Liberty’s attention on slowing down Vezaldenos and Dauby, Wood found herself in position for kick-outs and lay-offs. The 5-foot-10 senior was 10 of 22 from the floor in what Agostini called her finest performance yet.

“Anna has a nice stroke,” he said. “This team gave her many opportunities in the open floor, in the open half-court set to get wide open looks and she stroked them.”