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VOL favorite Sierra begins title defense
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VOL openers

Kimball at East Union

Manteca at Lathrop

Oakdale at Sierra

W. Ranch at Central Cath.


All games scheduled for 7:15 p.m. start

Sierra begins its Valley Oak League title defense tonight against visiting Oakdale.

Also, Lathrop welcomes Manteca, East Union plays host to Kimball and Weston Ranch travels to Modesto’s Central Catholic. All games are scheduled to tip off at 7:15.

Sierra (11-1) sports the Manteca area’s best record going into league and is the established favorite. On Dec. 30, the Timberwolves avenged their only loss with an emphatic 69-45 shellacking of Bear Creek in the Adidas Trojan Christmas Classic hosted by Lincoln of Stockton. Tournament MVP Hunter Johnson and Sacramento State-bound center Joshua Patton are the anchors, but guards Devin Nunez, Jess Spivey and Daniel Wyatt have emerged as threats from the perimeter. 

Oakdale (5-7) has worked in members of the school’s Sac-Joaquin Section champion football team to its lineup in the past few weeks. Quarterback Adam Olsen is one of two juniors who played as sophomores for the varsity basketball squad last year, joining 6-foot-3 wing Nate Van Cleave. The Mustangs have four sophomores this season.

The Manteca-Lathrop matchup pits one team on the rise and another that is rebuilding. Lathrop is 1-13 after graduating five key players who led the program to its first postseason victory. Manteca (8-4), meanwhile, is young but battle-tested. Anand Hundal, a 6-foot-8 junior, is averaging 12.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.9 blocks for the Buffaloes. They were swept by Lathrop last year, preventing a championship share with Sierra.

East Union (6-7), with just three seniors on its nine-man roster, rivals Oakdale as the VOL’s youngest team but may also be one of the most dangerous with its core of sharpshooting guards starring sophomore Gyse Hulsebosch.  

The Lancers already have a win over Kimball (5-5), as the two squared off in the West-Tracy Winter Holiday Classic on Dec. 20. They held 6-6 center Peter Van Katwyk (13.5 ppg) to just two points in the 53-50 victory.  The Jaguars of Tracy haven’t played a game since and lost five out of their last seven after starting the season on a three-game winning streak.

The game of the night could be in Modesto, as VOL newcomer Central Catholic looks to make a statement against Weston Ranch. Central Catholic (8-3), led by 6-6 guard Peter Hamilton and 6-8 post Jordan Boddie, will have a major size advantage but likes to get up and down the court, which should make for an entertaining contest. The Raiders went undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference last year, took second in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs and reached the CIF NorCal finals. 

Weston Ranch (7-5) should be used to playing on the road at this point having played four games each at the prestigious Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic and Holiday Invitational Tournament in Fresno. There were also trips to McClymonds (Oakland), Patterson and Center (Antelope), and last Friday’s nonleague showdown against St. Mary’s was the closest thing to a home game they’ve had. Their home opener is Thursday against Manteca.