Another night, another blowout win for Weston Ranch’s upstart girls basketball team.
The Cougars put forth another strong showing in their quest for the program’s first-ever Valley Oak League title on Wednesday, vanquishing East Union 71-46 at Dalben Center. The host Lancers were without standout 6-foot-2 center Loretta Kakala, who was out sick.
Chris Bauer, the only head coach Weston Ranch has had in 10 varsity seasons, isn’t getting too excited yet. There are, after all, still nine league games remaining, and the Cougars (5-0 VOL, 12-5 overall) have yet to face Sierra and Kimball. They’ve beaten league opponents by an average margin of 27.2 points so far.
“We have to get better every day,” Bauer said. “Yeah, you can hang a 40 spot on someone but did you improve that game? We worked real hard this past week on just help-side rotation and it showed tonight.
“There are still other parts of our game we haven’t worked on and it has suffered a little bit. There is always something to improve.”
Elisabeth Alexander led the way with 24 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocks. The 5-10 junior scored 22 of those points in the second half and hit two key 3-pointers in third quarter to keep East Union (1-4, 10-7) at bay.
The Lancers trailed 36-19 to start the third, but sophomore point guard Olivia Vezaldenos momentarily took over and helped cut the deficit to eight, 42-34, with a 3-pointer midway through the period. She fired 16 of her 20 points in the second half and while dishing out six assists overall.
Alexander responded by accounting for Weston Ranch’s final 11 points of the period, as the Cougars re-established control and led 53-38 going into the fourth.
“I came out in the first half a little tired for some reason, but in the second half I felt more like myself,” Alexander said. “I knew I had to step up and help the team because East Union was starting to come back. My teammates did a good job of finding me and I just took the open shots.”
Weston Ranch buried the Lancers for good with a 14-0 run in the fourth period. Teressa Haley’s jumper from the wing made it 67-42 with 1:49 to go. That was the Cougars’ largest lead of the night.
Rauline Martinez did most of her damage in the second quarter for the Ranch, which opened with an 18-2 barrage for a 34-15 lead. Martinez scored 10 of those points and assisted Donica Ramos’ 3-pointer that capped the flurry.
Martinez ended up scoring all 14 of her points in the opening half. She also had four assists and six steals. A.J. Brown contributed 10 points and six steals, and Victoria Gulley chimed in with eight points, nine rebounds and four blocks off the bench.
East Union did well to scrap back into the game but missed too many point-blank opportunities to keep up. Victoria Vezaldenos finished with 10 points and eight boards for EU, and Anna Wood added nine points as the Lancers tried to make do without their dominant center.
“A player of Loretta’s caliber has an impact on a basketball game whether it’s offensively, defensively or rebounding,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “But the bottom line is you can’t win basketball games giving up 70-plus points. We have to continue to work at it.”
His Lancers have had a tough go at it to start league. Championship hopefuls at the beginning, they dropped their first three games by a combined nine points, including a buzzer-beating overtime defeat at Oakdale.
“Unfortunately that’s where we’re at right now,” Agostini said. “I can sit here and tell you why we’re 1-4, but we just have to fight through it. This team will continue to compete, and hopefully we can string together some wins and beat some quality teams along the way.”
Weston Ranch 45,
East Union 38
East Union (3-2, 12-3) mounted a late comeback but the 12-4 run was too little, too late.
Weston Ranch (3-2, 11-10) was paced by Elysia Hernandez’s 16 points, and Jennifer Viguerias fired 14. Jyriaynna King pulled down 11 rebounds.
Marcella Salyer and Jessica Pablo turned in 13 and 10 points, respectively, for EU.