HANFORD — They say old habits die hard. Sierra Pacific’s habit? Winning.
Four days after a tough loss in the Central Section Division IV championship game, the Golden Bears got back to their winning ways with a 67-27 wire-to-wire victory over Reseda in round one of the CIF State Division V playoffs.
“They’re hungry,” Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush said. “That loss hurt every single person on this team. The girls came back with fire.”
Sierra Pacific guard Celeste Lewis led the team in scoring for the fourth time in their last five games with a game-high 18 points and added five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Haley Bettencourt also put together a good night with 14 points, four assists and three steals. Kalea Bush was the third player the team had in double figures with 11 points.
“It was good to bounce back from Saturday’s loss and come out and get a strong win, so it was fun,” Bettencourt said. “We wanted to come out hard and attack and make sure, of course, [we] start on a positive note. It was a really great feeling to get a win after Saturday.”
The 40-point differential on Wednesday marked the 11th time this season the Golden Bears (28-5, 10-0 ESL) won by 40 points or more. Their video game-like first quarter put the game to a close before Reseda could even figure out what was going on.
Sierra Pacific’s patented full-court press wreaked havoc for the Regents and tied them up as it has done to so many other opponents.
The Golden Bears led 26-0 before the Regents hit a free throw with 3.1 seconds left in the first quarter for their first points of the night. Sierra Pacific hit three 3-pointers in the first with back-to-back treys from Bettencourt and Rose Miller to give the team a 10-0 lead.
“Just communication and then us being more aggressive and being able to come out hard and attack and know where each other’s going to be so we work more as a unit,” Bettencourt said about their defense.
Janae Tolbert closed out the team’s first-quarter scoring by scoring five of her seven points on the night on consecutive possessions. Tolbert also dished out nine of her team’s 18 assists and picked up five rebounds and five steals.
The second started with another 3-pointer from Bettencourt and the team backed off the full-court press. Reseda was able to get to the free throw line and convert a couple of shots, but didn’t make their first field goal of the game until the 5:55 mark on a layup.
Lewis started to heat up by scoring all 11 of her first-half points in the second quarter. She drove to the hoop, got to the line and even put in a buzzer beater to give her team a 46-17 halftime lead.
“Driving inside worked for me … and passing out or diming to a big is something that I do,” Lewis said.
The second unit played the majority of the second half except for the first couple minutes of each quarter. They still outscored the Regents 21-10 over the final two quarters and extended their home record to a perfect 11-0.
“It’s fun being able to play on our home court,” Bettencourt said. “As a team, we just feel so much more comfortable. We practice on this court every day. It’s nice to be on our home court with our fans here cheering us on.”
If there was one knock on Sierra Pacific on Wednesday it was their free throws. They did a great job of getting to the line, but were 11-of-25 from the charity stripe or 44 percent.
Sierra Pacific will face Firebaugh (23-9, 9-1 WSL) in round two of the state playoffs on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Eagles won their first-round game 72-54 over Garey. They have a perfect 6-0 road record and lost the Central Section Division V championship game last Friday.
“I hope we come out aggressive,” Bettencourt said. “And just attack them and get steals and set the momentum of the game how we want it.”