By Gregg Dodderidge
OAKHURST — The Yosemite High girls’ basketball team went 2-1 last week. On Tuesday (Jan. 28), the Badgers defeated Sierra 65-42 in Tollhouse and on Friday YHS crushed Liberty 60-24 at home. YHS then played Saturday against Sierra Pacific of Hanford. The Golden Bears snapped a 5-game Badger winning streak, defeating YHS 57-47.
The Badgers now move to 19-7 overall, and 6-1 in the North Sequoia League. Both YHS and Washington Union share the NSL lead.
YHS find themselves in familiar territory — closing in on another league title. They have two big hurdles. The Badgers will face league Washington Union in Oakhurst tonight (Feb.4) at 6:30 pm for what will likely be for the NSL Championship. YHS will then close out the NSL season at Kerman (20-5, 5-2) on Feb. 11.
If YHS wins out, another NSL title will get painted on the Badger Gym’s wall.
Head Coach Gary Blate always plays a difficult non-league schedule in preparation for a run for a NSL title and eventual playoff berth. This has been the blueprint for virtually all of Blate’s NSL titles. This season is no different. YHS played a strong non-league schedule. All losses were to ranked programs.
But the Badgers have had a solid second half of the season. Since Jan. 7, the squad is 8-2.
The Badgers had a great shooting night against Sierra hitting on 53 percent of their shots (26 of 49). YHS went up early and never looked back. YHS had an 18-10 lead after the first quarter and led 34-17 at halftime. Sierra would get no closer in an easier than expected Badger win.
Jenna Kurz led YHS with 21 points. Kurz was 9 of 15 shooting overall and also led YHS with 9 rebounds — a season high for Kurz. Kurz also had four assists and two steals in another all-around great performance.
Center Courtney Hart had 16 points and eight rebounds. Keylee Andersen had 11 points and three steals. Point guard Britney Allen had seven points and led YHS with seven assists.
Other Badger scorers: Isabella Brown had 4 points, Emma Graffigna 4, and Lauren Bernardi 2.
Graffigna had 3 assists and 3 steals. Bernardi pulled down 4 rebounds.
The Badgers dominated Liberty for the second time this season. YHS has outscored the Hawks 141-43 in both contests. Badger back-ups got a lot of playing time. Kurz led YHS with 24 points. Hart had 9 points and 8 rebounds. Allen and Andersen each had 7 points. Allen led YHS with 4 assists. Isabella Brown led YHS with 11 boards.
The Golden Bears of the East Sequoia League, a Division IV program, outscored the Badgers 33-17 in the second half to pull away. They are a quality opponent. Sierra Pacific (9-0, 18-6) is currently ranked 4th in D-IV according to MaxPreps.com. The Badgers remain the #2 ranked program in D-II.
“We had the lead in the third quarter but we had too many turnovers,” Blate said. “Sierra Pacific a good program. They won a D-V state title two years ago led by Celeste Lewis. She is certainly one of the best players in the section.”
It was a strong defensive performance by the Bears. “They double-teamed Hart and kept her away from the basket,” Blate said.
It was also a poor shooting night for the Badgers who played three games in five days.
YHS shot only 37 percent. Jenna Kurz led YHS with 21 points, including three 3-pointers. Courtney Hart had 10 points and led YHS with 16 rebounds. Keylee Andersen and Emma Graffigna each had 5 points.
Union defeated Kerman 59-55 in a three-overtime thriller on January 28th. It broke a 3-way tie for first place. The loss hurts Kerman’s title hopes but the Lions are not out of it. A YHS win against Union and a YHS loss to Kerman will create another 3-way tie. Kerman will get the chance to play spoiler when they host YHS at Kerman on Feb. 11. It will be the last NSL contest for both teams.
School NSL Overall
Yosemite 6-1 19-7
Washington Union 6-1 17-7
Kerman 5-2 20-5
Sierra 2-4 9-13
Chowchilla 2-4 16-8
Liberty 0-7 4-18
If you haven’t seen a game this season, you need to be at this one on Tuesday. YHS has three players ranked in the Central Section. Kurz (points per game) Hart (rebounds) and Allen (assists) are top 10 performers. They face a fast and athletic Union program.
For YHS to win a title outright they must defeat both Union and Kerman. It is no easy task. The Badgers suffered a rare league loss 44-38 at Union on Jan. 17. It was one of the worst performances of the season for the Badger Girls. YHS will look for payback on Tuesday against the Panthers. Union is a good defensive team. They limited Kurz to just 14 in their last game. The Panthers have won 16 games in an outstanding season.
The Badgers travel to 16-win Chowchilla on Friday Feb. 7. (Varsity starts at 6 p.m.). YHS easily defeated the Tribe 68-26 in Oakhurst on Jan. 21. The score should be closer in this contest.
Finally, Kerman will also be looking to avenge a loss the Badgers in Oakhurst on Jan. 24. Kerman is a 20-game winner this season in a remarkable turnaround by first-year head coach Anthony Patino, formerly of the Sierra Boy’s program. The Badgers snapped an 11-game Lion win streak with the 62-44 win in Oakhurst on Jan. 24.