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Spartans nearly close gap in narrow loss
Lathrop’s Omar Muriel powers up to the basket over a Central Valley defender during Valley Oak League action Wednesday night. Lathrop would eventually fall 72-64 to the Hawks to remain winless. - photo by Photo by CHRIS LEONARD
LATHROP – It started out looking like just about every other Lathrop varsity boys basketball game – the opponent jumping up early and setting what looks to be a pace that the Spartans can’t contain.

But it very well might have just been their own version of the rope-a-dope.

After surrendering a first quarter thumping to the visiting Central Valley Hawks, the Spartans finally sprung to life to outscore their opponent in both the second and third quarters – performances that included impressive fast-breaks and momentum shifting defensive stands.

It would be the early deficit, however, that would lead to the 72-64 defeat that handed the Spartans – a first-year varsity program – their 19th consecutive loss.

But for head coach J.J. Ramirez, the signs of life and his team’s inability to give up were reasons to smile.

“We really did battle out there tonight,” Ramirez said. “We had some mistakes that we probably shouldn’t have had, but we never quit out there and kept of fighting.

“One of the things that we’ve been working on this week was defense, and I’m happy with how my guys implemented some of those plans while playing their hearts out on the floor.”

Lathrop’s Omar Muriel led all scorers with a dominant 22 point performance that included breakaway steals and under-the-basket reaches that drew a fair share of crowd enthusiasm.
Point guard Justin Fernandez racked up 16 points while running Lathrop’s offense, and both Aivery Lewis and Alex Pinedo finished the game with 10 points apiece.

Regardless of how hot the Spartans may have been at times, it was Greggory Matthews that did the damage early to deflate Lathrop’s chances – wrapping up his night with 21 points. Tyree Jones wreaked havoc late in the game by picking up 11 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Lathrop will travel to Manteca on Friday to take on the VOL frontrunners in the Manteca Buffaloes. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.