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Spartans topple Oakdale to improve playoff chances
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The playoffs have already started for Lathrop’s boys basketball team.

That’s how the Spartans are treating their final Valley Oak League contests, starting with Wednesday’s 56-52 victory over the suddenly-dangerous Mustangs of Oakdale.

Lathrop (4-8, 8-15 overall), which had dropped five straight before beating Sonora last Friday, is currently 18th in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff power ratings, and a win Friday against Division-II Kimball would be a big boost for its postseason hopes.

The Spartans played with urgency in the first half Wednesday, taking a commanding 35-15 lead into halftime. It would have been a wider margin if not for Spencer Thomas’ fall-away 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.

“I told them this is our playoff game,” Lathrop coach Bill Slikker said. “The only thing we can control is what we do, and in the first half we just played lights-out defense. Oakdale is a hot team right now, and they proved why in the second half.

Oakdale (3-9, 9-15), winners of three of its last four, rode the hot hand of Austin Archuleta (16 points) in the second half and was down by two in the final moments. T.J. Conley sealed it for Lathrop with about 20 seconds remaining, sneaking behind Oakdale’s full-court press before receiving a long pass and converting a 3-point play to put the Spartans up by five.

Lathrop managed to hold on despite shooting 8-for-17 from the free-throw line in the second half.

Isaiah Ellis led Lathrop with 18 points, and Robert Orantes factored in with 12.


Trans-Valley League

Modesto Christian 56, Ripon 51

In Ripon, the Indians (4-6, 9-16) came close to pulling off a major upset but simply could not match the firepower of mighty Modesto Christian (10-0, 22-2), one of the state’s top squads.

Ripon trailed just 27-25 at halftime and managed to stay within reach after falling behind by as much as 11 in the third quarter. The Crusaders helped Ripon’s cause by hitting just 7 of 20 free throws.

“We played very inspired and they were very lethargic,” Ripon coach Rod Wright said. “I hate moral victories, but this would be a moral victory. They’re just too good to lose.”

Cole Herrin poured in 17 points for Ripon, and Henk Gaalswyk contributed 11. Pacific-bound T.J. Wallace fired 17 for MC despite missing the entire fourth quarter with an ankle injury.