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Spartans complete conquest of WAC
Lathrop holds off Los Banos in regular-season finale to claim 1st outright title
Los Banos-Lathrop boys basketball
Lathrop’s Ahmad Jacquet takes off toward the basket for a shot while defended by Los Banos’ Yahir Zuniga (5) and Ayden Barcellos (4). - photo by Wayne Thallander

The goal for the Lathrop High Spartans was to outright win the Western Athletic Conference title.

They did just that on Wednesday with a hard-fought 59-56 victory over visiting Los Banos.

"We knew this was going to be a dogfight. We beat them earlier at their place when they were still undefeated," said Spartan forward Ahmad Jacquet, who was one of 10 seniors honored prior to tipoff.

The third-place Tigers were bent on avenging that earlier loss.

"We weren't going to let that happen on our homecourt," Jacquet said.

Lathrop (13-1, 19-8) managed to fend off Los Banos (9-4, 18-6), taking the lead for good with just under a minute remaining in regulation.

The Tigers, behind the play of big man Kayson Welch, led 56-52 down the stretch. The 6-foot-4 senior was relentless inside, finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, and a block

Indicative of this back-and-forth WAC battle were the eight ties and nine lead changes.

Spartan forward Elijah McCullough hit the big shot, dialing up a 3 with 1:33 on the clock. He then put his team up with 1:01 left, hitting a pair of free throws.

"Elijah came up big in the moment," said first-year Lathrop coach Robin Hong. The Spartans won a share the WAC crown with Mountain House last year.

"We didn't want to share it with anyone this time," he added.

For extra measures, the Spartans secured the win with senior guard Camryn Hayes dishing the ball inside to Napoleon Reeves, who capped his big night with a game-high 22 points, seven boards, and a steal.

Jacquet hit for 16 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and a block, while Hayes contributed with 12 points, seven rebounds, and a steal 

Los Banos' last-chance basket was swatted away before the buzzer by Raymond Carson.

"This win meant a lot," said Hong, who enjoyed the rest of the evening with his team by ceremoniously tearing down the nets.

Joining in on the team celebration was Spartan Nation, cheering on this accomplishment in the aftermath of a tough battle.