LATHROP — After surviving seven lead changes and four ties, host Lathrop ended the first half on a 7-0 run and outscored East Union 22-9 in the third quarter on the way to a 64-48 win in Valley Oak League boys basketball action.
The Spartans (6-4 VOL, 12-9 overall) had a whopping 43-26 advantage in rebounding with 21 offensive rebounds and they were able to get out quickly into transition, scoring eight consecutive fast-break points in a 12-2 third-period run.
“I have been preaching all year long that when we play defense we are a really tough team to beat,” Lathrop coach Nate McGrath said. “The type of team we are, when we play defense and get rebounds we can run the floor.
“I told them that if they limit East Union to one shot per possession they couldn’t help building a lead. And we were able to play our defense and rebound and then we were able to get out on a fast break.”
The Spartans’ Isaiah Ellis shared high-point honors with the Lancers’ Jake Danhoff with 20, including a perfect 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in the first period and 8 for 8 on the night. Ellis also had nine rebounds and three steals. Danhoff finished with 12 rebounds.
“We are learning that we can run,” Ellis said. “And teams have problems keeping up with our transition game.”
Of his perfect night from the free-throw line, Ellis said, “We work on our free throws at practice every day. We have to shoot 100 free throws as a team in under four minutes.”
Lathrop led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter before emptying its bench late in the game.
“We had trouble getting back on defense,” East Union coach Ryan Tarr said. “They hurt us on the fast break. Then we started taking quick shots and that turned into more fast-break points.”
Where Danhoff was the lone player for the Lancers (1-9, 8-13) to post double figures, Nilo Yuson (five rebounds, four assists, three steals) added 14 points for Lathrop and teammate Nicholaus Obazuaye had 12 points and nine rebounds. Eric Spencer was the leading Spartans rebounder with 10.
“We all played active today,” Obazuaye said. “We needed to focus and get this win because with four games left in our season we would like to translate some wins into a playoff berth.”
With four games left, Sierra has clinched a playoff slot and at least a piece of the VOL title with Lathrop, Manteca and Weston Ranch all tied for second. Only two of those second-place teams will make the playoffs.
“This was another much-needed win,” McGrath said. “We are in a dogfight for that last playoff spot and in this league, anybody can win any game – it doesn’t matter if you are at the bottom or at the top.
“And we needed this one pretty badly.”
East Union 52,
The Lancers withstood a 22-point fourth quarter by the Spartans to escape with the win.
East Union hit 10 3-pointers and was led by Austin Miller with 16 points and Gyse Hulsebosch with 11. Parminder Singh had 14 points for Lathrop.
East Union 49, Lathrop 22
The Spartans were held to single digits in each quarter.
Scott Morenzone led all scorers with 17 points and Lancers teammate P.J. Gill had 12. Arie Abrungas scored five points for Lathrop.