LEMOORE — For the 14th season in a row, the Bullpups are the West Yosemite League champions. Equally or maybe even more impressive, Hanford ran the tables and completed a third perfect league season in a row.
“I encourage [the team] to take pride in it,” Hanford coach Doug Pitkin said. “It’s not easy to do. We know that we should take care of business … and so we should win these games, but I was very proud of the effort.”
The perfect hat trick was achieved with a combined 28 points from Michaela Young and Sapphire Jones and a tough defense that limited Lemoore to three points in the second half of a 68-22 road victory in the regular-season finale on Tuesday.
The Bullpups (21-6, 10-0 WYL) have now won 39 WYL games in a row stretching all the way back to the 2015-16 season. Their last league loss came to Redwood on Jan. 26, 2016 in a 78-61 road loss.
“We work so hard at practice and … it’s nice to see that we’re succeeding,” Hanford guard Kylie Maya, who finished with six points, said.
For Lemoore (10-14, 3-7 WYL), it was a season of improvement, but another one that came up short of the playoffs. They earned four more wins than last season, but won one less league game. It’s the third year in a row the team will miss the playoffs.
“I love every single one of them,” Lemoore coach Jennifer Anderson said. “They work extremely hard and they make the most of their ability every single day. Even with the ups and downs they’ve taken it in stride and they find a way to have fun no matter what the situation is.”
Lemoore guard Amaya Sanchez scored a team-high 12 points, but was lost for the second half due to an injury. MJ Bresenio and Mariah Gomez each scored four points.
The Tigers immediately trailed 7-0, but Sanchez singlehandedly picked up the team. She first hit a 3-pointer, followed by a layup and free throw to give the Tigers their first lead. A breakaway layup capped her own 10-0 run and gave the Tigers a 10-7 advantage.
But the Bullpups responded. Hanford’s Nyomi Solis hit a 3-pointer to tie the game and Maya’s layup and Tinisha Edwards’ 3-pointer gave them a 15-10 lead after the first quarter.
The run continued into the second quarter and was capped by Young’s layup. The Bullpups scored 14 points in a row and took a 21-10 lead and would never trail again. Young also had seven steals, seven assists, four rebounds and two blocks.
“Shout out to Michaela Young,” Pitkin said. “She just totally changed the momentum of that game. As a freshman I’m very impressed with her composure. She lets me get on her at times, she lets me praise her and love her, but she’s a great player. When she decides to go … we all join in.”
The Tigers tried to respond, but couldn’t find their footing. They began to turn the ball over from the Bullpups’ press and traps. Hanford led 36-19 at halftime.
“Some of our kids came out flat, but then we had that nice little spark that got us going, but our kids just ran out of steam,” Anderson said.
The Hanford defense took over in the second half and allowed two points in the third quarter and one point in the fourth quarter. The Bullpups outscored the Tigers 32-3 in the final two quarters.
“We just had to play hard, play faster … but the fact that we did come back against them shows we can come back against any team and that’ll translate to playoffs,” Maya said. “Our defense was way faster, we were transitioning better, our traps were working and we were getting off the weak side.”
The defense created multiple scoring opportunities on offense and led to nine of 10 players earning at least one basket for the Bullpups. Corin Camara and Alyssa Chapman each scored nine points and Edwards added seven points.
Jones, in addition to her 14 points, also had 11 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season.
This season also marked the 14th consecutive season the team has won 20 or more games. Redwood was the only WYL opponent to score more than 30 points against the Bullpups this season.
Hanford will wait for the playoff brackets to be unveiled on Saturday to see if they have a home playoff game or will have to travel in the first round.
“We’re going to go far as long as we keep playing hard, fast and work as a team,” Maya said.