One victory separated three teams in the final Valley Oak League girls basketball standings a season ago. And if defending league champions Manteca High, Weston Ranch and East Union are linked together like sausage again in 2012, it will not be a surprise.
The Buffaloes put together a quality opening to the new season, reeling off five straight wins before suffering a two-point loss. East Union went eight games into the season before its first blemish, and the Cougars closed out the nonleague schedule with nine wins and a Stagg Delta Queen Tournament championship.
Kimball High will definitely weigh into the breakdown of the VOL championship, also entering the VOL schedule with nine nonleague wins. The climb to the title will be steep from the beginning for the Buffaloes with back-to-back road trips to Kimball and Weston Ranch to open the season.
The Lancers will open with Lathrop High and Sierra on the VOL grind, but cannot assume they have received favorable scheduling. Lathrop finally notched its first and only win deep into the preseason, yet appear to be a more solidified group than the Spartans who stayed close to EU last year in a 11-point loss.
Sonora has a solid 8-3 mark heading into VOL, but a 30-point loss to Calaveras may reveal more about the Wildcats than their impressive mark. Nonetheless, when the Wildcats host Manteca after traveling to Weston Ranch in the league’s second week, a ranks separation in the league should be seen.
Trans Valley League
When the Trans Valley League championship is decided, the title will likely have to go through the hands of the team in Salida. Modesto Christian has not lost a league game in a small child’s lifetime and with head coach Rob Spence returning a handful of seniors, much of the same should be expected in the TVL.
That should place the Ripon Indians in the postseason and scratching-and-clawing with the Crusaders in two head-to-head matchups, but first the Indians will have to go see an 11-2 Hilmar club.
Hilmar has opened the season playing well, suffering losses to Ripon Christian and Central Catholic, making the Yellowjackets a stern test for an Indians group that is coming off a solid showing in the always competitive West Coast Jamboree basketball tournament.
Ripon Christian made an eye-opening introduction to the Southern League last year with a 12-2 mark, but those two losses came to a team that has opened this preseason with an 11-2 clip.
Turlock Christian will undoubtedly be the Lady Knights’ stiffest challenge and the SL title will definitely have to go through the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinalists.
Ripon Christian may just be ready for that challenge, riding the dominant play of senior Mikaela Alger. The Knights, who came within six in one meeting and eight in the other last year, likely hold the key to the title if they can get by the talented Turlock Christian program.