HANFORD — It was the final home game of the season for the Sierra Pacific girls basketball team and they didn’t disappoint.
The first-place Golden Bears wasted no time getting ahead in Friday’s contest against last-place Woodlake as they won 72-19 and moved to a perfect 9-0 in the East Sequoia League.
Sierra Pacific guard Haley Bettencourt scored a game-high 18 points, Alana Roberts added 14 points and Janae Tolbert had nine points, while the girls extended their winning streak to 13 games.
The win also assured there will be no East Sequoia League co-champs this year. The ESL title belongs all to Sierra Pacific (23-4, 9-0 ESL) and it’s their fourth in a row.
The 19 points was the third least points allowed for Sierra Pacific’s defense next to earlier games against Sunnyside (65-15) and Lindsay (79-18). The Golden Bears are currently sporting a ridiculous +381 scoring differential in league and beating opponents by an average of 42.3 points per game.
Woodlake (5-17, 0-9 ESL) offered very little resistance from the beginning. They scored the game’s first points, but never led after that as the Golden Bears outscored the Tigers 20-6 the rest of the quarter.
Sierra Pacific’s defense, which allows only 26 points per game in the ESL, trapped on the baseline and used active hands to tip balls and cause mayhem with their press.
The Tigers struggled to cope with defenders and opted for outlet passes, many of which resulted in turnovers. Any time Sierra Pacific got their hands on a ball it was off to the races.
It was Tolbert to Kalea Bush for the layup or Bettencourt to Celeste Lewis on the wing for a 3-pointer. Everything worked for the Golden Bears.
Already leading by 12 points, Sierra Pacific used a backbreaking 13-0 run capped by Alana Roberts’ layup to start the second quarter.
The Golden Bears led 33-8 with 1:30 left in the second before Woodlake guard Jasmine Paniagua finally ended the drought for the Tigers.
The Tigers ended on a positive note with Alyssa Gonzalez’s buzzer beater layup, but still trailed 35-13 at halftime.
There was no cooling off for Sierra Pacific as they came out of the half on a 15-0 run to take a 50-13 lead. The only basket they gave up in the third was a 3-pointer from guard Callie Vincent.
The score was 56-16 headed into the fourth and the half-court defense continued to play well. No matter who was rotated into the game the result stayed the same.
Vincent scored a basket and a free throw in the fourth and was the only player to score for Woodlake in the second half. The six points given up was less than half of what the Golden Bears allowed in the first half.
“We’re still working on a lot of fine-tuning,” Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush said. “There’s always room for improvement and so that’s what we’re looking at through these games is what we can do better.”
The win puts them in a position to finish 10-0 in league, something the team accomplished only one other time during the 2015-16 season.
Prior to Friday’s blowout, Sierra Pacific High honored its six seniors on the team during Senior Night: Janae Tolbert, Haley Bettencourt, Hailey Leslie, Rose Miller, Kaylie Rocha and Kalea Bush.
Each senior walked to half court with their families by their side as a statement prepared by them was read. They were each presented gifts and a frame with photos. After the game, hugs, photos and all the likes took place for the seniors who grew up playing together.
“It was a very emotional night because I’ve watched these girls grow up and play together — a lot of them since third and fourth grade,” the coach said. “They’re an amazing group and it’s fun to watch them. I’m excited for their future, but it’s hard to see them go.”
She quickly added that they still have time left as they expect to go deep into the playoffs. The Golden Bears only have one regular season game left before they embark on their quest to defend their Central Section Division IV championship.
The Golden Bears will try and finish league undefeated when they go on the road to face Corcoran (12-15, 5-4 ESL) today at 6:30 p.m. Sierra Pacific defeated the Panthers 78-32 in their first meeting in January.