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HANFORD — If being perfect was one of Sierra Pacific’s New Year’s resolutions, then they’re taking it very seriously.

The girls basketball team has not only been perfect in the New Year, they haven’t lost in over a month.

That trend continued Friday and Saturday when the Golden Bears (19-4, 5-0 ESL) took down East Sequoia League opponent Corcoran 78-32 and Kingsburg 71-36.

In Friday’s game against Corcoran, the Golden Bears completely dominated on the defensive end — something they’ve done all season long.

“Tonight was fun because we got a lot of steals with our press and then working it into the half-court press,” Sierra Pacific point guard Haley Bettencourt said. “It’s a lot of fun being able to get a steal [and] dish it off to someone else.”

It showed on the stat sheet with four Golden Bears in double figures. Kalea Bush led with a game-high 18 points, Celeste Lewis and Bettencourt each had 17 points and Janae Tolbert added 12 points.

Their 78 points was the third most offense they’ve put up in a game this season and with only four free throws in the game. They’re now on a nine-game winning streak.

The last time Sierra Pacific lost was Dec. 29 to Chino Hills 43-40 in the Glendora Tournament.

Corcoran (9-13, 3-2 ESL) took an early 1-0 lead on a pair of split free throws. It lasted 10 seconds and would be the Panthers last lead of the night.

Bush quickly got inside on the other end of the court and finished a layup to give the Golden Bears the lead. It was the first of 15 straight points for Sierra Pacific.

Corcoran broke the run with its first field goal of the game with 2:35 left in the first. After the basket, the Golden Bears promptly went on a 10-0 run to end the quarter.

It was the second time this season the Golden Bears have limited a team to three points in the first. The previous occasion was against Granite Hills on Jan. 18.

Sierra Pacific continued to play a full-court pressure, which left Corcoran confused and unsure of what to do. This led to turnovers, which fed the offense of the Golden Bears.

At halftime, Sierra Pacific had allowed only three field goals and led 51-11. The zone defense was a tough shell to crack for the Panthers and it showed on every possession.

The Panthers started the second half the same way they did the first, by scoring the first points. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t last long as Sierra Pacific went on a 9-2 run. They led 65-25 entering the fourth quarter.

All nine players got in the game and eight of them scored for the Golden Bears. Lewis and Bettencourt each hit three 3-pointers.

“If you watch them, how happy they are for each other, that says a lot about who they are,” Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush said. “I can’t tell you how proud of them I am … They’re a great group of girls, very unselfish.”

The defense held Corcoran to 10 total field goals in the game. Sierra Pacific had 12 in the first quarter alone and finished with 33 baskets.

It was also the 12th time this season the Golden Bears held an opponent to 40 points or less. Each time it resulted in a victory.

“They’re working together. They’re communicating better,” the coach said. “We still have some room for improvement and that’s something that we talked about.”

Bettencourt said the same, especially with boxing out opponents and continuing to talk on the floor.

Sierra Pacific ends the first round of league a perfect 5-0, but that doesn’t mean much to the team as they understand there’s still five more games to play.

“There’s always things that we want to do better, but we’re glad to be in first place,” Bettencourt said. “We’re not going to let up at all. We’re going to not look over anybody. Just keep working hard and working together to get our wins.”

In their game against Kingsburg on Saturday, the Golden Bears continued their tenacious defense.

They held Kingsburg (7-13, 2-3 ESL) to four points in the first quarter. They did allow 16 points in the second, but still led 44-20 at halftime.

The defense then picked up again and held the Vikings to 16 points in the second half.

The Golden Bears had five players in double figures in this game. Lewis led the team with 16 points, Bettencourt scored 12 points, Cristina Avila added 14 points and Bush had 10 points. Tolbert had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.

Up next:

Tuesday: Sierra Pacific (19-4, 5-0 ESL) at Lindsay (5-15, 2-4 ESL)

Jan. 12: Sierra Pacific 79, Lindsay 18

Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.

Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Sentinel

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