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SELMA - After a deep playoff run last year, an experienced returning starting lineup could help lead the girls basketball team to a Valley championship appearance at Selland Arena in February.

“There’s a lot potential in this group,” Bears head coach Paul Romig said. “A lot is going to be determined by how hard we work and how well we listen. I think at times it’s human nature to relax in a role and we have to make sure we don’t do that we continue to push and get better.”

On the 2018-19 season roster, seven of the 12 players are seniors, which is an increase from last year’s total of one.

Romig said the team’s varsity experience won’t matter if the girls aren’t motivation to win.

“We need to be hungry,” Romig said. “Are we going to be in an aspect where we take every opportunity to get better and improve? Because that’s the best way to invite success and we have to make sure we focus on that path.”

Last year, Selma went 22-11 overall and 8-2 in Central Sequoia League play, which was good for a league championship.

As the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, the Bears went on a postseason run that lasted through the CIF Central Section Division III semifinals after a 78-54 loss to 2-seeded Golden Valley. Even though the girls came up short of facing Immanuel in the Division III title game, Selma competed in the CIF State Division IV playoffs, but fell 70-34 to Foothill Tech in the first round.

Being one game away from playing at Selland Arena, returning players Clarissa Moreno, a junior, and Rachel Vieira, a senior, said they want to take that next step to play for a Central Section title.

“We were one game away game, we know we could make it.” Moreno said. “So we just need to believe we could make it.”

“We’re want it so bad this year,” Vieira said. “We were one away. We have that great chance again this year, so we’re just harding hard to get to that point again.”

Last year, Vieira suffered a season ending broken arm injury, but now fully healthy, she won’t settle for anything less of league, Valley, and state titles.

“My expectations is to work hard everyday at practice,” Vieira said, “and winning league and hopefully getting to that big stage at the end of the season.”

Moreno and Vieira are among the returners that include seniors Taj Pannu, Madi Mares, sophomores Yesenia Sanchez, Elena Loutherback, and Audrey Gonzalez.

With a majority of players from last year’s team returning, Romig expects “growth” on the court from them.

“The group that is now sophomores, which is Yesenia, Elena, and Audrey, we expect them to blossom and grow and not only to be more consistent, but more versatile in what they’re able to do,” Romig said. “The seniors need to lead as well. Whether that’s Rachel, whether that’s Taj, every senior needs to push and get better and be an example. They need to comprehend that this is their last trip through. Everybody needs to contribute and look to get better everyday.”

The girls started the 2018-19 season with a 64-62 road loss to Porterville High on Nov. 19, but got on the win column with a 79-54 home victory over Roosevelt High on Nov. 23.

Selma had four players that scored in double-digits in both games. In the season-opening loss, Vieira scored a team-high 23 points, followed by 12 from Sanchez, 11 from Gonzalez and 10 from Pannu. Sanchez recorded a double-double with 17 rebounds to go along with her 12 points.

In the win against Roosevelt, Sanchez led the team with 15 points, followed by 12 from Gonzalez, and 11 each from Vieira and Loutherback.

Up next for Selma is hosting its annual Selma Shootout Tournament on Nov. 28-Dec. 1. The four-day local tourney will feature 16 high school teams including the Bears with games taking place at the Selma High and Abraham Lincoln Middle School gyms.

After the Selma Shootout Tournament, the girls will host Madera South High School on Dec. 4.

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

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