The big girl can get it done at both ends of the court.
With East Union nursing a one-point lead with 5:36 left in the game, Lancers low-post player Donja Payne blindly defended an inbounds pass thrown over her head to the Tracy wing. Payne tapped the ball and then struggled with a Bulldogs player near mid-court and came up with the loose ball, going the distance for the layup and a three-point lead on the way to a thrilling 47-43 non-league East Union win at Dalben Center.
“It was very physical,” Payne said. “It was a tough game. “But I felt like I had to push a little bit harder and give it my all.”
Payne – who dominated the paint with 24 rebounds along with 10 points, five blocks and five steals – had a key bock and rebound sequence with 30 seconds left in the game to help secure the win.
“We talked to the girls after the game about how offensively this was not our best night,” Lancers coach Jim Agostini said. “But that happens – teams come out and play good defense.
“We can’t be playing perfect offensive set basketball in mid-December. I know we are not running good sets right now and that is frustrating, but that is high-school basketball. It takes time, effort and patience to get yourself into the season. This is game No. 5.”
The game was sloppy on the offensive end for both teams with the Bulldogs (1-5) committing 22 turnovers and East Union 21. It was also quite physical with a double technical being called after a skirmish for the ball in the third period.
Tracy coach Derek Solano was a little disappointed with the way some of the calls went.
“I just think that a couple of fouls that don’t get called and go the wrong way put us in a predicament,” Solano said. “It was so close that every one of those matters.
“Our girls played hard though. They played with heart and they played all the way through. I can’t fault them for that.”
Payne and Ruby Daube (28 points, seven steals) teamed up on back-to-back plays late in the game to spot East Union to a three-point lead which proved to be the difference. With 1:39 remaining, Daube spotted Payne underneath and Payne banked it in for a 44-43 lead.
With 52 seconds showing on the clock, Payne rebounded her own miss and dished out to Daube who buried a 3-pointer to push the Lancers lead to 47-43. In the remaining time Payne had her block-rebound sequence and Daube had two rebounds. Marcella Salyer grabbed a Bulldogs miss in the final seconds to secure the win.
“It was a good high-intensity game,” Daube said. “We didn’t have our night offensively but like we always say in practice you can have an off night in offense but you can never be off in defense.
“We work on our defense hard and the defense really came through in the clutch. The atmosphere motivated us and our team really cheered us on.”
Tracy scrapped out a 35-29 lead late in the third quarter only for Daube and Payne to strike. Daube’s field goal with 10 seconds left in the period brought East Union within 35-31 and then Payne grabbed a steal and dished it to Daube who buried a 3-pointer with time running out to narrow the gap to 35-34.
“Early in the season in a good highly contested game like this you want to see how your team handles adversity,” Agostini said. “I like how we handled adversity tonight.
“Tracy came out and played hard. I thought we got on the floor and showed some grit and toughness getting 50-50 balls.”
Alyissa Escobar paced the Bulldogs with 14 points and 11 steals, and teammate Dani Rozal battled all night with Payne, grabbing 12 rebounds.
East Union 46, Tracy 39
Nina Murphy had 20 points for the Lancers and teammate Jaidyn Valencia added 10 points.
Tracy 32, East Union 14
Jennifer Garcia had half of the Lancers’ points with seven.