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Sierra proves its worth in upset of Lathrop
Sierra point guard Asia Cortez uses her off hand to get an advantage on Lathrop defender Janet Visaya. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Chalk up another tough loss for Lathrop’s girls basketball team.

The Spartans capped the first half of the Valley Oak League season with a head-scratching 54-46 loss at Sierra, which had dropped five straight going into Tuesday’s contest. This could be one that haunts Lathrop (2-5, 7-12 overall) at the end of the season as it looks to advance to the playoffs for the first time.

“Very disappointing,” Lathrop coach Ed Fang said. “We didn’t come out ready to play tonight. Sierra wanted it more than us and we got outhustled. They beat us on the boards and outplayed us.”

Sierra (2-5, 6-13), despite its recent struggles, isn’t necessarily devoid of talent, so perhaps to the young Timberwolves this wasn’t much of an upset. Perhaps it was more of a preview of what’s to come for the final stretch of league games.

Freshman Kayla Wilson was impressive throughout, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds while sealing the win with four straight free throws over the final 21.5 seconds. Valerie Nestor scored eight points but was especially key on the glass, as she ripped down 19 rebounds. Before Wilson drained four in a row from the stripe, Nestor pulled down offensive rebounds on back-to-back one-and-one free throws that were off the mark.

 “I think this is the way we are capable of playing,” Sierra coach Steve Unterholzner said. “We put it together tonight. Lathrop is a great team — they’ve taken all of the top teams to the limit.

“I’m proud of the way we played today, especially in the last quarter we made very good decisions and hustled on defense. We did a lot of the things that we’ve been working toward the whole season.”

Sierra led 40-26 — the widest margin of the game — with 45 seconds to go in the third after Asia Cortez’s layup.

That was before Lathrop made its biggest move. Jazlyn Simon and Akilah Lesley each buried a 3-pointer before the quarter ended, and that sequence sparked a 14-2 run that closed the Spartans in 42-40 midway through the fourth.

“They came out and hit everything that they put up, but I knew they would cool down and they did,” Fang said of Sierra. “Unfortunately for us we couldn’t get control of the game.

“A lot of times it’s turnovers or free throws, but tonight we can’t blame it on that. There has to be a point where we just start to play better ball more consistently.”

Simon led Lathrop with 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Loreal Taylor added 10 points and 11 boards.