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MOVING FORWARD
Sierra sinks Spartans with complete effort
SHSLHS3-1-19-12
Asia Cortez leads the fastbreak for Sierra as Lathrop Highs Jasmine Calix sprints back on defense. - photo by HIME ROMERO

LATHROP — Sierra High’s girls basketball team is hoping its early-season struggles are behind it after putting forth a complete effort Wednesday.

The Timberwolves turned a five-point halftime lead into a 55-40 blowout of Lathrop, another youth-laden program that is still laying the foundation in its third varsity season.

It was the first time all year that Sierra (2-3 Valley Oak League, 4-13 overall) put together a routine victory, building an early lead and padding it with late runs.

“This is not a position that we’ve been in very much this year,” Sierra coach Steve Unterholzner, whose team put a scare into likely postseason qualifier Kimball in a 47-42 loss last Friday. “I just told them they need to learn how to deal with a situation like this, develop some pride and play to win the whole game.

“We’re improving,” he added. “We’re definitely on the way up, starting to put some things together and playing with more intensity. We’re not there yet, we still have a ways to go, but we’re getting there.”

Spearheaded by Lia Unterholzner’s 19 points and 16 rebounds, Sierra executed well and showed good energy from whistle to whistle.

The Timberwolves, who never trailed, broke away from their 27-22 halftime cushion with a 14-1 flurry to start the third. Lia Unterholzner’s two free throws made it 41-23 for Sierra’s largest lead of the game. Lathrop was done in by turnovers and Sierra’s effectiveness in breaking the full-court press.

Sierra further capitalized on the Spartans’ aggression by burying 19 of 36 free throws.

“In the third quarter we just threw the ball away and got careless, and we were settling for too many early shots on offense,” Lathrop coach Ed Fang said. “We quit running it there for a while and that hurt us. Sierra was able to rebound and run the fastbreak on us — that was the turning point right there.”

Lathrop (0-5, 3-13), to its credit, did well to shrink the deficit down to nine in the fourth quarter before Asia Cortez sank the Spartans for good with two big 3-pointers with under 2:30 to go.

Not only was this Sierra’s best wire-to-wire effort, it was also its best team effort.

With Unterholzner and Shelby Shirron (11 points, seven rebounds) forcing their will in the post, the Timberwolves had good production from their perimeter players. Cortez contributed 15 points, six rebounds and four assists, and sophomore Celine Barber added nine points, six rebounds and eight steals.

Kristi Davis rounded out Sierra scoring with a single point, but she found other ways to contribute off the bench with 10 rebounds and two steals.

Jazlyn Simon turned in 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals to lead Lathrop. Loreal Taylor pumped in seven points, 16 rebounds and six steals.

Sophomore

Lathrop 37, Sierra 32

The Spartans (2-3, 8-4) took the lead for good at 31-29 with 3 minutes remaining on Akilah Lesley’s steal-and-layup play.

Jamie Metcalf buried a 3-pointer on the following possession, and Brianna Fernandez iced it with two free throws with 8.7 seconds to go. Lesley and Fernandez ended up with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

For Sierra, Laryssa Coushman registered nine points and 10 rebounds, while Kayla Honecutt ended up with seven points and four steals. Naomi Nunis chipped in eight steals.

Freshman

Lathrop 41, Sierra 23

The Spartans ( 3-2, 8-5) cruised after staking a 27-6 halftime lead.

Stephanie Rasdas dropped in nine points to lead the way, with Perla Vargas adding eight. Brendalyn Gambora and Lauren Collins finished with six apiece.