HANFORD — The Hanford girls basketball team made it look easy Thursday night.
The Bullpups (20-7, 11-0 WYL) had an opportunity to clinch another outright West Yosemite League title and it was Senior Night.
All the Bullpups did was blowout Mt. Whitney 78-29 and secure a 13th consecutive WYL championship.
The two teams previously met on Jan. 17 at Mt. Whitney where the Bullpups destroyed the Pioneers 102-27. Five players ended up in double figures and Hanford ran away with the game. The second meeting was no different.
Hanford guard Kate McClard added yet another double-double to her season with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. She also added five assists and seven steals.
McClard is now up to 21 double-doubles on the season and is averaging 19 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Sapphire Jones scored 12 points with seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. The junior used a quick first step to slice to the hoop repeatedly.
Kylie Schmidt-Maya and Nyomi Solis each scored eight points and all 12 players scored at least one bucket in the game. Hanford coach Doug Pitkin rotated girls all throughout the game to keep fresh legs moving for their fast-paced offense.
The Bullpups trailed briefly 4-3 in the first quarter for 52 seconds. It was the only lead the Pioneers would hold all night.
Bullpups guard Naykimra Wright promptly hit a perimeter jumper to snatch the lead back and they never looked back.
Hanford used a 24-7 run to race out to a 28-10 lead after the first quarter. Their defensive pressure continued in the second quarter, led by a spirited Solis, and they got up and down the court on fast breaks.
“We started playing faster,” Hanford coach Doug Pitkin said. “Because we’re playing faster we’re committing to going full speed, we make some mistakes that we live with … but we’re playing much faster and creating a lot of problems for the other team’s offense.”
At halftime, the Bullpups led 43-16 and 65-22 entering the third quarter. Last-place Mt. Whitney (5-16, 1-10 WYL) had no response for the Bullpups and has now lost seven games in a row.
Hanford on the other hand has won 14 games in a row and hasn’t lost in over six weeks. The Bullpups’ point differential versus WYL opponents is +374. It’s an insane number to think about when you consider Redwood is in second at +107.
The Bullpups are winning WYL games by an average margin of 34 points per game and the 49-point victory on Thursday was their second biggest of the year.
You have to reach all the way back to the 2004-05 season to find the last time Hanford didn’t win or at least have a share of the league crown. That year they finished tied for third in league at 6-6.
With another WYL title in hand, Pitkin took a second to acknowledge the moment.
“That was our goal so it’s a nice sense of accomplishment,” Pitkin said. “We still have one left, but our goal was to win league.”
Pitkin went on to elaborate how he was proud of how the team played at Redwood and the effort the girls have put in all throughout the league season.
Before the game, Hanford honored their three seniors for Senior Night. The three seniors this year were Naykimra Wright, Kate McClard and Deja Carter.
“Mixed emotions,” McClard said about the night. “It’s kind of sad, but then it makes me kind of happy because all these girls coming in and all my teammates … I just see a good road ahead and it makes me happy.”
The girls were called one by one and they were escorted to the center of the court by family members. Balloons and flowers also accompanied them.
“I get a little nostalgic on this night because I roll back my mind about previous years,” Pitkin said.
Pitkin said he’ll miss all the different personalities of the girls. Carter’s ability to make him laugh with her “Carlton” dance, Wright’s ability to have an intelligent conversation and joke and McClard “is just a sweetheart.”
He called McClard “mother hen” as she always made sure everyone was happy. Pitkin added that this was one of the most enjoyable seasons he’s had in recent memory.
The Bullpups will wrap up the season next Wednesday on Valentine’s Day against Lemoore (6-16, 4-7 WYL). The Tigers have won two of their last three games and sit in a tie for fourth in league, but lost their first meeting with Hanford 71-38.