LATHROP — Lathrop made a big step toward the postseason after completing a season sweep of Central Catholic on Tuesday, 50-35.
The Spartans (8-4, 15-9 overall) are now a game up on Central Catholic (7-5, 16-8) for the third and final automatic berth in the Valley Oak League, and winning both meetings gives them a leg up should it come down to a tiebreaker. Lathrop may be peaking at the right time, and the additions of Semajynique Steen and Shelia Mertilien from injuries have been a boost to its depth.
“Like I told the girls, this game doesn’t matter as far as what we feel for the playoffs,” Lathrop coach Dwayne Davis said. “We feel like we’ve been playing playoff basketball since December. We’ve been battling, changing and adjusting, and we’re playing good basketball right now.”
It started, as always, on the defensive end on Tuesday, and it helped spark the offense in the final two periods after the Spartans nursed a 17-16 halftime lead.
Central Catholic was able to get baskets by going over the top of Lathrop’s press defense. The Spartans switched to a man-to-man defense and were able to get deflections and steals that led to fastbreak points.
The biggest key, Davis said, was limiting the Raiders’ top scorers, Danielle Friedrich (11 points) and Alexandra Candelario (nine points).
“We got out on Friedrich and Candelario, we were not going to let them hit 3-pointers,” Davis said. “We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds because of that, but the big thing was to keep them away from the 3-point line and they only made one all night.”
Lathrop once again got a stellar all-around effort from sophomore Mary Cotton, who registered 12 points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks. Myani Thornton accounted for six of Lathrop’s 17 points in the third and finished with 10. Gurveen Bal had eight points and eight rebounds, while Danya Phillips contributed six points, 14 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Steen added six points and four rebounds in her fourth game back from major knee surgery.
The Spartans have another big game Thursday on senior night, when second-place Kimball visits. They came up short 49-46 in their last meeting in Tracy.
“We had a great tussle with them over there,” Davis said. “We feel like we match up pretty well with anybody we play, but we know they’re going to be tough.”
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The first-place Buffaloes (11-1, 14-10) celebrated Senior Night with a shellacking at Winter Gym. They hold a one-game lead over Kimball with two games remaining.
McDonald’s All-American Loretta Kakala led the way with 15 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. Fellow seniors Malia Parangan (10 points), J.J. Santos (eight points, eight rebounds) and Syd’nee Fryer (seven points) also left their mark. Freshman guard Jayda Jackson contributed nine points, six rebounds and three assists.
Weston Ranch (2-9, 8-14) was paced by Nia Boston’s eight points.
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The Buffaloes led 13-9 after the first quarter and held on to hand Weston Ranch (7-1, 13-6) its first league loss of the season.
Jennalyn Laminero did all she could for the Cougars, pouring in 14 of her 24 points in the first half while finishing with five steals. Julianna Lassiter added seven steals and three blocks. Darnaysha Huff grabbed 10 rebounds to go with a pair of blocks.