By YHS Correspondent —
OAKHURST — The Yosemite High School girls basketball team fell just five points short of its goal of winning the Division II Central Section championship, losing to Bakersfield High 47-42 at Selland Arena in Fresno last Friday night, Feb. 22.
In an electric atmosphere with hundreds of spectators gathered from around the Central Valley and Central Coast to see the top teams in the Central Section, the Badgers could not quite catch Bakersfield. Bakersfield has an enrollment of 2,830 students, dwarfing YHS’ 650 students. That the two schools met in a section championship game is a testament to the hard work of Head Coach Gary Blate and his players. This is the second time Blate has led a YHS girls team to the D-II Central Section finals. The Badgers also fell short in 2011.
Senior Grace Fries led the Badgers with 20 points, making 5 three-pointers. Fries has been the team’s leading scorer each of the last three seasons and is third all-time in points scored at YHS behind only Katie Menton and Sydnee Fipps. Fries also holds the YHS record for made three-pointers in a career with 258 and led the Central Section this year with 87.
Other than Fries, scoring was hard to come by against the Drillers’ staunch defense. Though the Badgers had a height advantage, they were unable to get the ball inside consistently to make use of it. Credit the Drillers defensive game plan for that. They closed off passing lanes and denied entry passes to the Badgers’ taller players in the post. Even so, the Badgers kept it close until the very end.
Senior Lily Graffigna led the team with 6 assists. She is now number 2 all-time at YHS in assists. The team as a whole led the entire Central Section in assists this year. Senior Sophie McGoldrick led the Badgers with 11 rebounds against Bakersfield.
Team qualifies for state playoffs
Despite the loss, the season did not end at Selland Arena. The Badgers, with a 26-6 record on the year, qualified for the Division II State Playoffs. They were the 13th seed in Northern California and traveled to Eastside College Prep High School, the 4th seed, in Palo Alto on Feb. 26. The Badgers lost 69-49 to an incredibly sharp-shooting team. Eastside rained down three-pointers on the Badgers from the beginning of the game. Fries again led the Badgers with 23 points, but Eastside had too much firepower from outside. Eastside is a private boarding school established by wealthy donors. The school only admits students from traditionally disadvantaged groups who will be the first in their families to go to college. The students come from all over.
The five Badger seniors — Fries, Graffigna, McGoldrick, Hailey Rich and Linnea Leinau — continued the legacy of excellence established by Coach Blate over the last 15 years. While it is tempting to wonder about the section, and possibly state, championships that might have been had the Badgers played schools their own size in the playoffs, Blate and his players never complain about it. Playing the largest public schools, and private schools that are not restricted from recruiting athletes, forces Blates’ players to work harder to get the most from themselves, a habit that will serve them well in the future.