By KEVIN SAULS
MANTECA Sonora High School took sole possession of first place in the Valley Oak League girls' basketball race Tuesday night with a 45-41 victory over Sierra.
The Wildcats (10-6, 4-0 VOL) moved a half-game ahead of Sierra (13-6, 4-1) and a full game up on idle East Union of Manteca (8-9, 3-1).
Senior forward-center Jessica Peterson scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats to their biggest victory to date under first-year coach Charmon Logan.
The 6-foot-1 Peterson won a tough personal duel with Sierra 6-footer Martha Spivey, who had 18 points and six rebounds. Both completely took over the game at different times, Spivey scoring eight of Sierra's 10 second-quarter points to bring the Timberwolves back from an early 15-6 deficit, and Peterson scoring all 10 of Sonora's third-quarter points to keep things on an even keel, 28-28, going into the fourth quarter.
But while Spivey was held scoreless the last seven minutes, Peterson stepped up with six more big points and five fourth-quarter rebounds.
Another key for Sonora was the defensive play of forward-guard Rachel Wolfe and guard Haley Hohengarten. Together, they held Sierra's big outside threat, guard Chyanne Jacomini, to eight points.
Like Spivey, Jacomini was rendered a non-factor in the fourth quarter as she was blanked for the last six minutes.
"Rachel has been playing defense like that for us all season," Logan said. "Haley can do it, too, but we like to rest her more on defense so she can be a little fresher at the offensive end."
Hohengarten took over on Jacomini down the stretch after Wolfe picked up her fourth foul.
The fourth quarter was championship-tense, with Sonora ahead or tied all the way but never able to pull away. Guard Nicki Rodriguez opened the quarter with a 3-pointer for a 31-28 lead and, after Michele Galindo answered for Sierra, Wolfe put the Wildcats ahead to stay, 34-31, by sinking a trey from the left corner with 7:04 to play.
Sonora is back on the road Thursday to play archrival Oakdale (6-9, 1-3).