By KEVIN SAULS
East Union of Manteca came to town with a chance to clinch the outright Valley Oak League boys' basketball championship, and the Lancers made the most of their opportunity with a thorough 75-45 dismantling of Sonora High School last night at Bud Castle Gym.
The championship is the second in the last five seasons for the Lancers (19-5, 11-0 VOL), who walloped 2002 champion Sonora by a combined total of 58 points in two games this year. The Wildcats (12-12, 6-5) have rarely been dominated that way.
East Union pounded the ball inside to 6-foot-9 center Michael Nunnally (20 points, seven rebounds), set up the perimeter shooting of 6-4 guard Stephen Barrera (19 points, six rebounds), and continually beat Sonora down the floor with an array of quick guards led by David Shaw (eight points, six assists).
"I love the way these guys play they play hard," said East Union coach Eric Simoni, a pretty fair Lancer guard himself in the early 1990s. "Defensively, they bring it to the table every night. Offensively, we showed some patience and got some shots for the big guy (Nunnally), and Stephen got some outside shots and knocked them down."
Sonora made a little noise early in the second half, coming out of the locker room with a 9-5 surge to make the score 42-22. That was as close as the Wildcats could get, and they trailed by as many as 34 points in the fourth quarter.
They certainly haven't worked out for Sonora, which figured on contending for a second straight VOL title but fell by the wayside after a 4-0 league start.
The Wildcats still might make the playoffs for the 19th straight year, but they also might not. They went into last night's game No. 13 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III power ratings, needing to stay in the top 16 to qualify.
"We knew we'd be in if we could split this week," Francis said. "If we don't win Friday (at Oakdale), our chances will depend on what the teams around us (in the ratings) do.