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Vaughn sinks late free throws as EU holds off Oakdale
East Union defender Wayne Cheung gives Oakdale ball handler Vince Fauria little room to operate. - photo by HIME ROMERO
In a game that saw quality offense displayed in brief spurts, East Union senior Robert Vaughn had to convert on a pair of free throws in the game’s final minute and he made good, sending the Oakdale Mustangs home with a 44-41 Valley Oak League defeat Friday at Dalben Center.

Vaughn strolled to the foul line with 1:03 remaining in the contest and the score knotted at 41 apiece. Oakdale senior Vince Thompson drained a huge 3-pointer the possession prior to Vaughn’s attempts, tying the game at 41. Vaughn, who had only made one of three from the stripe leading up to the two foul shots, sank the pair without harm spotting the Lancers a two-point cushion they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Those right there are the two biggest free throws of his career,” East Union head coach Brett Lewis said of Vaughn’s key makes. “Coming into the season he had struggled from the foul line, and we talked all off-season about getting better. He has improved big time and the numbers show it.

“And those two tonight were huge.”

The two clubs played a relatively close contest throughout, with East Union building the game’s biggest lead when it pulled away 37-27 late in the third quarter. Oakdale had no plans of surrendering the league matchup, cutting the Lancers’ double-digit lead to five with a Thompson 3-pointer and Justin Martinez layup.

Vaughn was instrumental in the Lancers’ pivotal third quarter, scoring five of his nine points and dishing out a pair of assists. Vaughn wouldn’t get back to the scoring column until the last minute, but his final two points have put the Lancers (3-1 VOL, 9-6 overall) in position to close out the first half of league with a single loss.

“This was a huge win for our program,” Lewis said. “Oakdale is the sleeper in my opinion; they’re definitely one of the teams to beat. They have it all really, and they’ve won some championship in their lower levels. They have been right there, so we saw this as a must win for us.”

Oakdale (1-3, 10-7) has been tripped up three times in VOL play, pulling in its only win against first-year varsity program Kimball in a road win in Tracy. The Mustangs have put themselves in a challenging position, and it was obvious losing this game did not help matters.

East Union was led by Vaughn’s nine followed by TeeJay Gordon’s eight points. Oakdale got a game-high effort form Thompson who finished with 14, while teammate Jake Martinez added nine.

“We have had trouble holding teams down on the defensive end,” Lewis said. “And tonight we didn’t. We told the guys all night that this game would be won on the defensive end and we need to take more pride in that.

“We were able to put it together and not disappoint our crowd for the second Friday in a row.”