The stars shined Friday at Manteca High’s raucous Winter Gym, but it was the play of the less heralded players that was the difference in this always-intense intra-city rivalry between the Valley Oak League’s first-place team and its defending champion.
The Buffaloes led by double digits for much of the game despite Ruby Daube’s career night for East Union in a 66-62 victory that gives them a two-game lead in the standings.
“They’re the class of the VOL and they have been for a long time,” Manteca coach Ryan Bono said of EU. It was a reunion of sorts for Bono and Lancers coach Jim Agostini; they were once assistant coaches at East Union under Rick Inderbitzin in the early 2000s.
“I told the girls at halftime, if you want to be champs — and you have a long ways to go — you have to beat them,” Bono added. “Everything in the VOL goes through East Union. They had to battle. This was a huge confidence (booster) for our girls. It wasn’t necessarily the starters, but it was somebody off the bench who always stepped up for us.”
Syd’nee Fryer hit three 3s and scored 11 of her team-high 17 points in the first quarter for the Buffaloes (6-0, 9-9 overall), who opened up a 22-9 lead. McDonald’s All-American Loretta Kakala, who played for East Union as a freshman, finished with 12 points and six rebounds while limited by foul trouble. But it was truly a team effort for Manteca, which had 10 different players score. Selena Lopez paced Manteca’s reserves, hitting five 3s for her 15 points.
“I was off at the beginning of the game but my team always had confidence in me,” Lopez said, adding that the team’s on-court chemistry has vastly improved since early-season injuries to both Fryer (knee) and Kakala (ankle) knocked the team off-kilter for about a month. “We believe in each other and we played great today.”
The Lancers (4-2, 14-4) missed a golden opportunity to gain some ground in the second quarter when Fryer and Kakala each picked up their second fouls early on. East Union went on a 7-0 run to close in 32-22, but Manteca answered with a half-ending 8-2 spurt. Reserve center Sarah Interbitzin keyed the run, draining a jumper from the wing and converting a put-back on two straight possessions.
“The girls got behind a little bit and they’re young ladies and they want to compete,” Agostini said. “They want to chip away at a 15-point lead with two shots. I thought our patience wasn’t the best tonight.”
Daube, a fourth-year varsity starter, kept the Lancers in it. She scored her team’s first 12 points of the second half, and her fastbreak bucket — set up by Hailey Gosney’s steal near halfcourt — dwindled the deficit to eight, 42-34.
“As a captain, I just told the team it’s 0-0 (at halftime),” Daube said. “We still need to fight throughout the whole game, we just can’t hang our heads. That’s what we did. We were getting there, but then again Manteca is a really good team and they had a good night.”
Daube wasn’t too shabby either. The scrappy guard exploded for a career-high 36 points, making 13 of 15 free throws and five 3s. She hit her fifth 3 with 20 seconds to go, and Gosney (10 points) followed with one of her own from well beyond the arc before the final buzzer.
Sophomore center Donja Payne added 12 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks for East Union.
“One thing for my high school career as a four-year varsity player, I hate losing against Manteca,” Daube said. “No matter if it’s here or there, I hate losing to them, but they are our cross-town rival. They always have a good team and I think they always will. They do have an All-American on their team right now.”
East Union 60,
The Lancers improved to 19-0 overall behind Nina Murphy’s 20 points. Julia Vezaldenos contributed with 11.
Adriana Valencia scored 19 points to lead Manteca, while Samantha Cerritos had 14.