HANFORD — It was called “A Battle for Hanford” by some, but the answer has remained the same — it’s Sierra Pacific’s town.
Sierra Pacific made it three in a row this season — and 4-0 overall — against Hanford, while also knocking their crosstown rivals out of the playoffs on Thursday. The No. 11 seed Golden Bears upset the No. 3 seed Bullpups 72-63 in the second round of the CIF State Northern California Division IV playoffs.
“This was the type of game we all had to have composure for,” Sierra Pacific’s Celeste Lewis said. “Our hard work and just making sure we’re disciplined to this game. Not only taking pride for our town, but taking pride for state playoffs. … I feel like we deserve this.”
Lewis poured in a team-high 19 points, while Alana Roberts backed her up with 16 points. Annabelle Saavedra added 12 points, including three 3-pointers, and Makayla Carre scored 11 points.
It was the second consecutive state playoff game where the Golden Bears had four players finish in double figures.
“They’re incredibly unselfish and they all understand their roles,” Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush said. “That’s key to have a program to be successful is having girls willing and understanding their roles.”
Sierra Pacific was calm and in control from the tip. They led wire-to-wire, while Hanford came closest to taking a lead when it was 3-2 in the opening minute.
The Golden Bears immediately asserted themselves in the paint with Celeste and Roberts. Roberts scored 10 of her 16 points in the first quarter and helped Sierra Pacific claim a 25-10 lead.
“We wanted to get it in low, inside the paint,” Bush said. “Even if it was Celeste or Alana or Makayla or Lauren [Zantos], we were bigger inside, so we were just trying to keep packing it inside. We had a lot of rebounds.”
Hanford’s Tinisha Edwards made it 11-8 on her layup in the first, but Sierra Pacific ended the quarter on a 14-2 run. Edwards scored 12 points for the Bullpups, but was scoreless in the second half.
“Our energy right off the bat was [low],” Hanford’s Kylie Maya, who finished with eight points, said. “The crowd affected us both negatively and positively.”
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The fans, who seemed to fill every nook and cranny in the gym, were loud after every single basket. Boos, chants and all kinds of cheering rained throughout the night. The Hanford High School parking lot was full by 5:45 p.m., an hour and 15 minutes before tip-off.
Hanford outscored Sierra Pacific 14-10 in the second quarter, but still trailed 35-24 at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Golden Bears hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Carre, Saavedra and Lewis as part of an 11-0 run. A few possessions later, Kylie Brasil drove to the basket and scored to give the Golden Bears a game-high 22-point lead.
“Playing as a team, us passing the ball, make sure we’re finding an open spot,” Lewis said about the run. “Just make sure we’re all playing as a team and on the same page.”
Hanford’s Alyssa Chapman managed to make it a 10-point game in the fourth quarter on her layup, but Sierra Pacific quickly scored twice to push the lead back to 14.
“We were just trying to use up the clock and, again, that’s something that we still obviously need to work on,” Bush said. “Slowing it down, using up your time, getting it down within the last five seconds and getting the shot off, so that’s still something that we need to work on.”
Michaela Young, who scored a game-high 24 points, made it a nine-point game on a free throw, but there was only 30 seconds to go. She scored 12 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter. Chapman finished with 10 points.
“We didn’t rebound,” Maya said. “We’ve played them three times now and we know how they play, but we didn’t [get it done]. There’s no one person to blame.”
It’s Sierra Pacific’s fourth consecutive trip to the State Regional Semifinals. Hanford was seeking its first appearance in six years.
Sierra Pacific will travel to face No. 2 seed Argonaut (30-4, 9-1 MLL) on Saturday at 6 p.m. Argonaut defeated No. 7 seed Cloverdale 60-49 on Thursday.
Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.
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