By Gregg Dodderidge
OAKHURST — The Badger Varsity Boys Basketball squad ended a strong regular season at 18-10 and earned their second straight CIF Central Section Division IV playoff berth. The 14th-seeded Badgers will go on the road to face the #3-seeded Reedley Pirates. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 19).
On the way to being playoff-bound, the Badgers played three tough playoff-type North Sequoia League contests. The Badgers lost 56-38 to eventual league champ Washington Union at home on Feb. 5. YHS rebounded at Chowchilla with a 59-51 win on Feb 7. YHS closed out their NSL campaign last Wed. (Feb. 12) at Kerman with a tough 60-59 loss to the Lions.
Overall, it has been a very successful season for coaches Erik Peterson and Steve Lopez. YHS was close to a rare 20-win season and took 3rd place in the NSL.
YHS defeated Kerman for the first time in four years. For Peterson and Lopez a playoff berth was the goal from day one. “We are really excited for the playoffs,” said YHS head coach Erik Peterson. “We initially hoped for a higher-seed but we are confident as a team. We will be ready. ”
Final NSL Contests
The Panthers of Union are the best defensive team in the NSL. They limited NSL opponents to an average of just 42 points per game. YHS managed only 38 in both games this season. Overall, the Badgers shot a miserable 14 of 49 shots. It was 41-18 Union at the end of the third quarter. Owen Bazzar led YHS with 12 points. No other Badger reached double figures.
YHS rebounded with a win at Chowchilla. It was Senior Night for the Tribe and they gave the Badgers a good game. YHS crushed CHS 70-40 in Oakhurst on January 22. Chowchilla led 14-10 after the first quarter but the Badgers would outscore the Tribe 49-37 the rest of the way.
Holden Eames led YHS with 14 points. Garrett McMechan turned in his best overall performance of the season scoring 11 points with 4 assists and 4 rebounds. Jack Elrod and Nathaniel Mulkey led YHS with 11 rebounds each. Connor Borba of Chowchilla kept the Tribe in the game with a game-leading 26 points. Borba hit on six 3-pointers.
The Badgers lost a heartbreaker at Kerman. The Badgers were up one with 10 seconds to play. The Lions took their last shot, missed, but got the put back tip-in as time expired. It was a tough loss in a playoff-type environment. It was Kerman’s last game and it showed. “The team was disappointed but that was Kerman’s playoff game,” Peterson said. For the first time in recent memory, the Lions failed to make the playoffs. “Our third quarter killed us,” Peterson said. “Ben Page and Jack Elrod had great performances though. The team played hard overall.”
Elrod and Page led YHS with 19 and 13 points respectively. Elrod pulled down a season-high 15 rebounds. Elrod was named YHS Player of the Game by Peterson. Eames added 11. Bazzar had 7 points and led YHS with 6 assists. Eric Brar and Gavin Layton each had 21 to pace the Lions.
Final NSL Standings
Union went undefeated in the NSL, finishing strong in the second half of the season with a 13-1 record since January 10. Union will play in the D-IV playoffs as a #4-seed. WU will open with a home game against #13 Central Valley Christian. Liberty also in D-IV secured a #7 seed and will host #13 Mira Monte of Bakersfield.
School NSL Overall
Washington Union 10-0 13-13
Liberty 7-3 15-11
Yosemite 6-4 18-10
Kerman 5-5 9-19
Chowchilla 2-8 12-16
Sierra 0-10 4-22
The Badgers will play a large school program. Reedley High (school pop. 1,793) plays in the very competitive North Yosemite League. The Pirates are 16-10 overall and 4-6 in the NSL. Reedley is coached by Travis Ferrell.
Reedley soundly defeated YHS 74-45 on December 13 at the Liberty Hawks Classic. Despite the loss, Peterson is confident of his team. “We have really improved since December,” Peterson said. “A lot of players have improved. We are playing much better as a team. We are not the same team we were in December.”
The Badgers have both height and an athletic backcourt. These are two key elements for success in playoff basketball. YHS knows Reedley. It will be a tough task. The Pirates defeated Liberty twice and are very athletic. The Badger ‘bigs’ of Elrod, Mulkey, and Page must control the paint. They are more than capable. Jesse Swope has also added valuable minutes and is also very athletic.
In the backcourt Eames, Bazzar, Coffman and McMechan will certainly be pressured. If this group can connect from beyond the arc, play good defense, and limit turnovers, YHS will give the Pirates a much different game vs. December.
Peterson summed it up: “With our height, guard play and inside game we will be a challenge. We can shoot from the outside. If we play together and keep mistakes to a minimum we will always have a shot.”