Everything that could go right for East Union did for the majority of the first half.
Different story in the third quarter.
The Lancers opened on a 10-2 run, held the lead the bulk of the first half, but it shriveled away under an intensified Manteca High defensive effort in a 54-42 Valley Oak League loss Thursday.
East Union could not have possibly put together a better opening half, forcing Manteca to call on usual starters Courtney Range, Mikayla and Jessica Hasal, who began the game on the bench for disciplinary reasons.
The Lancers built its lead and Manteca responded with a strong dose of Range and Mikayla Hasal, combined with the early efforts of freshman Elizabeth Tolbert. East Union got scoring from five different players early on, but finishing the third quarter without a field goal likely was the difference in the contest.
“Our girls are starting to get that basketball IQ running all the time and they said at halftime that we need to press more,” Manteca head coach Cody Norman said. “They called it at the half and it is something that we like to do. Certain games we have to work on things and we can’t always just rely on our press.
“But going back to something that we are comfortable with really got things going, in a hurry.”
A pair of Marina Salyer free throws were all the Lancers could add to the scoring column in the third, turning a minimal four-point halftime deficit into an unmanageable 47-27 mountain to begin the fourth. The Lancers had no urge to surrender the league loss, closing the gap to 10 with 2:30 minutes to play. Tolbert would ultimately seal the deal, pushing the Buffaloes back up with a layup and a pair of free throws in the waning seconds.
“When the game got a little squirrely we still competed,” East Union head coach Jim Agostini said. “Last time we tried to play a zone and the Hasal girls will drill you and they did; tonight we didn’t want to give up any wide-open 3s, playing man-to-man and contesting shots.
“The girls really did a good job.”
Manteca’s win assured the squad of at least a piece of the VOL championship, giving it a portion of the last three league titles. There is business to handle on the immediate league schedule, but the Buffaloes (12-0 VOL, 18-6 overall) are beyond the point of playing for a league title.
“We came out knowing that if we pulled out this game right here that we could clinch a piece of VOL,” Mikayla Hasal said. “Which is a big deal because we wanted to three-peat, but all of us know that it’s in the back of our heads but we still can’t take these next two games lightly.
“Sierra is solid and we are just trying to have some momentum heading into playoffs.”
Manteca 47, East Union 33
Manteca started slow, but got going in a hurry in its VOL win over East Union Thursday.
Chelsea Gomez led Manteca with 12 points, seven steals and six rebounds. Mildred Perez added nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds in the win.
Manteca 48, East Union 25
The Lancers had no chance, failing to score in the opening quarter of Thursday’s VOL loss.
Leah Manuleleua led the way with 18, while Celina Burks finished in double-figures with 11 for Manteca (10-2, 17-3).