The Hanford and Sierra Pacific girls basketball teams finished at the top of their respective leagues this season and, as a result, will both open the playoffs at home.
Hanford (21-7, 12-0 WYL), fresh off of capturing its 13th consecutive league title, will take on Clovis East tonight at 7 p.m. in the first round of the CIF Central Section Division I bracket.
The Bullpups rolled through the West Yosemite League winning their league games by an average of 34.9 points and have won 15 games in a row dating back to December. Hanford was also the only team to break the century mark this season when they defeated Mt. Whitney 102-27.
They’re led by senior Kate McClard, who led the team in points (18.5), rebounds (10.4), assists (3.9), steals (3) and blocks per game (1.5).
The do-it-all senior will be key in any game, especially down the stretch in a tight contest where she’s proven she can be clutch. By her side she’ll also have Sapphire Jones, who was second on the team with 14.6 points per game, Tinisha Edwards who can splash timely 3-pointers and Kylie Schmidt-Maya who has an IQ far above her freshman status.
The 6-seeded Bullpups get the 11-seeded Clovis East Timberwolves, who finished 11-17 overall and 0-10 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
The record is a bit misleading as the Timberwolves play in one of the toughest leagues. In the TRAC are No. 1 seed Clovis West, No. 2 seed Clovis North and No. 4 seed Clovis.
Timberwolves center Saleena Miranda leads the team with 10.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. The 6-foot-1-inch center will be a mismatch inside the paint and underneath the basket.
Keeping the Timberwolves off the glass will be paramount for the Bullpups since Clovis East averages 12.2 offensive rebounds per game.
Hanford will look to use their run-n-gun offense to get up and down the court and create early shot opportunities, which led to them averaging 61.3 points per game. The Clovis East defense surrendered 56 points on average and had a point-differential of -261 on the year.
The road to Selland Arena will run through Sierra Pacific in the CIF Central Section Division IV bracket.
The Golden Bears (24-4, 10-0 ESL) were awarded the No. 1 seed after a stellar season. Not only did they finish as the East Sequoia League champions for the fourth time in a row, but they were also a perfect 10-0.
ESL opponents stood no chance this season. Besides winning league games by an average of 42.8 points, the Golden Bears were a +428 on the season and their closest victory was 12 points.
Sierra Pacific guard Haley Bettencourt leads the team with 11.2 points per game, Alana Roberts in rebounds (9.3) and Janae Tolbert in assists (5.6) and steals (3.8).
But numbers don’t really matter to the Golden Bears because they play complete team basketball. Kalea Bush, Celeste Lewis and the rest of the team are all just as intricate to the success of the Golden Bears and that’s how it’s been all year long.
One game Bettencourt leads the team in scoring, another it’s Tolbert, then it’s Bush with a double-double. Sierra Pacific is difficult to beat because everyone can score and everyone can play at a high level. And defensively — that’s a whole other issue for opponents.
Sierra Pacific allowed 26 points per game this season to league opponents. No, that’s not a typo – 26 points. For the entire season they allowed 36.5 points. Not much of a difference.
The Golden Bears will host No. 16 seed Mira Monte (9-16, 4-4 SYL). The Lions struggled to put up points this year averaging 35.6 per game. Defensively, they were much better allowing 40.3 points, but they’ll still need a lot of help to slow down the running offense of the Golden Bears.
They’ll also need to score a whole lot more if they want to have a chance at keeping it close with Sierra Pacific or else the game could be ugly by halftime.