Lathrop’s game plan is simple:
“We hustle and we move as one,” sophomore guard Myani Thornton said.
Surely there is more to it, but these days Thornton and the Spartans are making it look easy. On Friday, they put forth what is arguably the program’s most complete performance in a 64-19 dismantling of Sierra.
While East Union and Manteca have secured their spot as the top two teams in the Valley Oak League, Lathrop (4-2, 10-6) is proving to be by far the best of the rest. Second-year head coach Dwayne Davis, however, isn’t satisfied with his team’s current standing.
“I told the girls that we’re just starting,” he said. “We’re not where we need to be, but things are starting to come to fruition. It’s been tough teaching them an offense that they’ve never run before. We want to be able to use our speed and our quickness, and they’re starting to play at 100 percent speed.
“Our shooting is coming around, and I’m happy with what we’re doing on defense.”
It’s the second time in three games that Lathrop has held an opponent to 19 points, but the offensive output at Sierra was its best all season. Thornton led the charge with 22 points, 19 of which came in the second half. She was able to get points in transition off steals, finishing with five, but also made three 3s in the final two periods.
Shelia Mertillen (14 points) and Gurveen Bal (eight points) hit two 3s apiece. Danya Phillips had eight points, six rebounds and five steals. Eight of Lathrop’s nine players scored, but the one who didn’t —senior wing Terrina Phillips — went down with an early knee injury. Semajynique Steen contributed 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals to go with her seven points.
“That’s the way I like it, is to have that balance,” Davis said. “Myani can score but she can’t take all the shots. She’s able to open things up for other people but they have to make their shots, too, and tonight we were getting them from everybody.”
Lathrop set the tone in the first quarter and put the Timberwolves away with a crushing third. Sierra was held without a field goal in the opening period and did not score until Alison Edwards drained a pair of free throws with 4:42 left, but the Spartans took a 17-2 advantage in into the second quarter.
Krista Harris ended Sierra’s field goal drought with a mid-key jumper with 4:11 remaining in the half. The Timberwolves, feeding off the energy provided by fourth-year guard Kayla Wilson (five points, six rebounds) were able to outscore Lathrop 9-7 in the second and had a more manageable 24-11 deficit at halftime.
“We tried to keep focused for the second half,” Thornton said. “Our mindset was to not (slack) off, just do what we do best to get the win.”
Davis pleaded for his team to deliver the knockout blow in the third quarter and it responded, starting on a 12-0 run and shelling Sierra 23-4. The Spartans forced 10 turnovers, and Thornton ended the barrage with two straight breakaway layups set up by her own steals on the defensive end.
“We’ve been up on everybody we’ve played this year, but at times we showed immaturity and let up,” Davis said. “That was our whole conversation (at halftime). We were up 13 but that wasn’t enough. I told them if we were not up 30 by the end of the third quarter then we didn’t do our job.”
Lathrop widened the gap to 32, 47-15, by the end of the period and then outscored the home team 27-4 in the fourth.
“They finally understand that they are a good team,” Davis said.
The rest of the VOL has taken notice.