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Defensive stand keeps EU in step with Sonora
East Union standout Lexy Posz attacks the heart of the Sonora defense Thursday at Dalben Center. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
Briona Fontenot played a big role in jump starting the East Union offense in the second half of Thursday’s much-needed 52-49 Valley Oak League girls basketball payback win over visiting Sonora Thursday.

But it was her defense in the end that sealed the victory.

East Union (10-2, 18-5 overall) had chances to ice it late but missed two one-and-one free throws, allowing Sonora to have the final possession and an opportunity to tie it with 10.7 seconds left.

The ball, as expected, went to Sonora four-year standout Kelli Keefe.

The Wildcats (7-5, 12-11) were trying to set a screen to either free up Keefe for an open 3-pointer, or draw another defender for a teammate to take the final shot.

“I knew they were going to try to set a screen on me, and I just busted the screen,” Fontenot said. “She tried to pump fake, but I held my ground.”

Fontenot smothered Keefe, forcing her to give it up to Maddie Pallante with about 2 seconds to go.

Sonora never got the shot off.

Keefe led all players with 22 points, 18 of them coming during a fast-paced second half contrasted by a more deliberate tempo from the first half. The score was tied at 17 at the break.

“For the most part, Briona did an outstanding job on one of the best competitors the VOL has had over the years,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said in reference to Keefe. “I’ve been shaking her hand before games for four years, and I’m glad tonight was the last time and I told her that.”

East Union’s stars also shined over the final two quarters, when Fontenot erupted for 13 of her 17 points.

Lexy Posz had 17 points as well, adding 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Shalane Jackson contributed11 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

“In the second half (East Union) picked it up defensively and got us to play a little bit quicker than we wanted to play, but I thought we still did well with that pace,” Sonora coach Lloyd Longeway said. “This was a game we could have won, so I was happy with how the girls played.”

It was a game sorely needed by Sonora, which stunned East Union at its place 56-40 on Jan. 18. The Wildcats are currently ranked 15th in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings — a formula the section uses to determine the 16 postseason qualifiers — after starting out at No. 10.

East Union’s playoff spot is secure, it’s just a matter of where. But in the immediate future the Lancers, who are sixth in the D-III power ratings, have their eyes set on a possible fifth straight VOL championship.

EU remains one game behind league-leading Manteca, which drubbed Oakdale 73-23 Thursday. If East Union, winners of five straight, do capture at least a share of the title they would have earned it. The Lancers cap the regular season with Weston Ranch and Manteca.

“Everybody’s got the same goal in mind here in this league, and we still want to have a say in it,” Agostini said. “Whether we do, we’ll see what happens.”