FRESNO - For the first time in program history, the Selma girls basketball team are Section champions.

The top-seeded Bears cruised to a 71-39 victory over No. 2 seed Fresno High Warriors in the Central Section Division III Championship at the Selland Arena on Feb. 23. The Warriors were also seeking its first Section title. 

Once the clock hit zero in the fourth quarter, the girls celebrated on the court, which was a moment they’ve been working toward all season.

“It’s such a good feeling to know that all season we worked hard and got the result we wanted,” junior power forward Clarissa Moreno said.

“We didn’t just win for us,” sophomore guard Audrey Gonzalez said. “We won for every girl who has been in this program and every girl who is going to join in the future.”

“All the hard work we’ve put in paid off today,” sophomore center Yesenia Sanchez said.

In a game that was never close, all five Selma starters scored in double-digit figures. Sanchez (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Gonzalez (10 points, 10 rebounds) each recorded a double-double. Moreno scored 13 points, sophomore guard Elena Loutherback had 10 points, and senior Rachel Vieira was solid on both ends of the floor, scoring 15 points to go along with seven steals.

“We've worked so hard for this,” Vieira said. “The players before that came to Valley, they paved the way for us to accomplish this goal.”

“It’s amazing that all our hard work is finally paying off. Sweat, tears, blood, everything, it’s just paying off now.”

It’s Selma’s first official Central Section championship, but it’s the program’s first title win since 1914, which was before official records were kept.

For Bears’ head coach Paul Romig, it’s his first Section title, but his third overall section championship. His last two championships came as coach of the girls basketball team at Del Campo High School of the Sac-Joaquin Section. Romig led the Sacramento-area Del Campo Cougars to a section championship in 1992 and 1997.

It was Romig’s third trip to Selland as Selma’s coach with the previous Section championship appearances ending in defeat in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. The Bears were the top-seeded team in both games.

After coming close in those back-to-back years, Romig said this title win was for everybody that has contributed to the program.

“I’m happy for this group of girls,” Romig said. “I’m proud of them, but I’m also happy for everybody that’s made this happen for the last 11 years. It’s been a progression, There’s been over 100 players that have contributed to this achievement. So I’m proud of everyone that’s had that influence.”

Romig also added that this championship was a special moment for the current group of girls.

“I think what’s important is this team is organic,” Romig said. “Everyone of our players went to Selma elementary schools. They’ve come up through that and they’ve had the older girls as an example. There’s so many times that we’re not the tallest group on the floor, we might not be the fastest group on the floor, but they play hard and with a lot of heart. They made that a deciding factor in the outcome of the game.”

Vieira said the team wanted to win the game for Romig and the program.

“It’s amazing that we were able to do it for coach,” Vieira said. “He’s worked so hard everyday just for us.”

In the first two quarters, Selma held Fresno to single digits while outscoring the Warriors in both quarters. The Bears outscored Fresno 17-7 in the first quarter and 26-9 in the second quarter.

Selma started the first quarter on a 9-0 run.

The Bears went into halftime with a 43-16 lead. In the first half, Selma shot  59.4 percent from the field while the Warriors struggled shooting the ball at 23.1 percent.

At the end of the third quarter, Selma extend its lead to 61-27. The Bears would get outscored 12-10 in the fourth quarter, but the game was already out of reach for Fresno.

A day after the championship win, Selma was awarded the No. 11 seed in the Northern Regional bracket of the CIF State Division III playoffs. On Tuesday (after press time), the Bears traveled to the Bay Area to take on No. 6 seeded Woodside Priory in the first round. The Woodside Priory Panthers came into the state playoffs as the Central Coast Section Division V Champions.

A win would’ve advance Selma to the quarterfinal round against No. 3 South San Francisco High or No. 14 Lynbrook-San Jose on Thursday.

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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