For a minute and 34 seconds, Oakdale High’s injury-plagued varsity girls basketball team stayed with East Union’s Valley Oak League-leading program, grasping a 0-0 tie as both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net.
But time, as it seemed, was on East Union’s side on Thursday.
The Lancers exploded for 21 first quarter points, including 18 in the final five minutes of the period, on the way to grabbing a 58-14 final tally over Oakdale at the Mustang Arena.
The Lady Mustangs, who lost standout senior Cassandra Clark and junior center Ashley Edwards for the season, also lost to Sierra in a 46-11 drubbing on Jan. 11. The Mustangs returned Naydee Fernandez to the lineup for limited action against East Union, but have sported just one preseason starter (forward Andreina Rodriguez) for most of VOL play in the early going.
The team is still awaiting the return of injured scoring and rebounding threat, Kelsey Clark.
“We are just going through some tough times right now,” Oakdale coach Gary Smith admitted. “Obviously the injuries have hurt us, and affected our scoring abilities.”
Blanca Lara was first to score on Thursday with just 2:49 to play in the opening half. Oakdale trailed 30-4 at the break, and mustered just 10 more points against a deep East Union bench in the second half.
Rodriguez, who has spent nearly every minute on the floor in recent games, led Oakdale with six points against East Union.
The team pulled up sophomore guards Gabby Acosta and Micah Barton to fill in for the injuries, and both have played admirably in the sudden change of pace to guard more seasoned ball handlers. Acosta scored five against Sierra to lead Mustang scoring.
“I certainly can’t criticize their performance,” Smith said. “You go up a notch and all of the sudden you are facing faster, stronger players. It takes a while to get adjusted, and I’m hoping they do as we continue through league.”
Oakdale (6-7 overall, 1-3 VOL) didn’t have it easy on Tuesday in another tough league match-up against Manteca (13-2, 4-0), though results were not available at press time. The Mustangs face a tough Sonora team (winners over Sierra) in Wildcat territory on Thursday as well.
“It seems like these injuries have happened at the toughest point of our season,” Smith said. “We can ill-afford to have starters out, especially with teams as tough as they are in our league.”