LATHROP — The Lathrop High boys varsity basketball squad found a way to win in Tuesday’s season opener against Stagg.
In the 58-51 non-league victory, the Spartans got a lift from several returning players from last year’s squad, including Marcus Conley, Ricky Chavez and Robert Orantes.
“Since we’re the smaller team, it was important that we attack and press the action,” said Orantes, who was the catalyst for Lathrop at the point.
He finished with 12 points while initiating the break and playing tough defense, especially in the open court.
Ditto that for Chavez, who also found ways to score as his outside shot wasn’t dropping early on.
“Since my 3s were not falling I decided to drive to the hoop,” said the 5-11 senior guard.
Chavez, who chipped in with 13 points, added: “As a team, we’re playing a lot smarter (than a year ago).”
Conley, who had a team-high 15 points, looked forward to playing Stagg.
“I played there as a freshman and for the (Delta Kings) summer league team,” he said.
It was evident early on that the Spartans were much improved. In particular, Orantes and newcomer Joseph Sausau often found ways to attack the Stagg defense, making strong passes along with strong drives to the hoop.
Orantes closed out the first period with a steal coupled with a behind-the-back pass that put the ball back into his hand for the easy basket, capping off a 9-0 run.
Lathrop coach Bill Slikker was pleased with the team’s effort. Yet he was also a bit disappointed with the missed opportunities.
“We should’ve been up by 15 points rather than three at the half,” Slikker said.
The Delta Kings made it close thanks to the outside shooting of Jorge Hernandez, who connected on a pair of 3s along with a jumper to close out the half. He finished with a game-high 21 points.
Early in the third, Lathrop held a 30-25 lead. But Stagg suddenly caught fire, outscoring the Spartans, 10-3, keyed by 3s by Curtis Bernard and Hernandez, who also chipped in with three straight free throws after being fouled behind the arc.
Down 35-33, Lathrop responded by scoring 10 unanswered points, including a pair of field goals from Chavez and Conley. Darius O’Connor chipped in with a put-back basket.
“It was an ugly game but we found a way to win,” Slikker said.
His team led as much as 10 in the final period only to see Stagg chip away on Ramiro Ramirez’s trey and Hernandez’s two free throws and a basket.
“I was proud of how our kids were able to finish the game. That was something we weren’t able to do the past two years,” said Slikker.
Spartans 48, Delta Kings 44
T.J. Conley scored 10 points to lead the Lathrop past Stagg.
The Spartans led 30-21 at the half only to see the Delta Kings to pull to within a basket midway through the fourth period, 40-38.
Lathrop finished strong, with Devante Johnson and Nilo Yuson scoring 8 and 7 points, respectively.