MANTECA -- Even after surviving the three-month maturation process that is the high school basketball season, the first round of the playoffs always seems to be the moment when young players show their inexperience.
That was the crux of the advantage East Union High carried into its Sac-Joaquin Section Division III girls' playoff opener against Inderkum.
For most of the game, the host Lancers boasted the only two seniors on the floor, and they led the way for the entire 32 minutes. Ashley Rose scored 27 points and Rachel McDaniel had 25 as East Union rolled Inderkum 75-61.
"Experience is pivotal," said Lancers coach Jim Agostini. "We've played a lot of these games with girls who have never been in this position. We were just trying to put pressure on our opponent and see those kind of mistakes coming from the other side and not us."
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East Union, the No. 4 seed and the three-time defending Valley Oak League champion, improved to 26-2 and will play host to El Dorado on Thursday. Inderkum, which started two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, finished 16-11.
With that young lineup, which included the very active 5-foot-10-inch freshman center Riana Byrd, the Tigers' future is bright. But off-season drills for the team will focus on taking care of the ball.
Inderkum committed 20 of its 30 turnovers in the first half, but stayed close because the Lancers couldn't find their touch. Byrd got inside for five of her 14 points in a 13-6 spurt that brought Inderkum within 29-27 late in the half.
That's when McDaniel went to work, scoring five points in the final 1:30 of the half and 10 in the first three minutes of the second half, igniting a 20-2 scoring run that decided the contest.
"If we're in a funk, we need our top players to step up and do the scoring, and that's what me and Ashley did," McDaniel said. "Once we got started we were able to start distributing the ball."
Any chance Inderkum had to claw back into the game was lost in foul trouble. The Tigers were whistled for 28 fouls to East Union's 13, a gap that allowed the Lancers to go to the line 40 times to Inderkum's 12.
Rose did a great deal of her damage at the line in the fourth quarter, going 10-for-10 against a Tigers' team very willing to foul.
"Rachel and I work so well together, and the underclassmen see us as leaders," Rose said. "How we play is generally how the rest of the team plays, so if we bring the energy, the rest of the team also steps it up."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.