With a second consecutive trip to Selland Arena on the line, Sierra Pacific will enter today’s game with the same plan as they have against any other tall team — box out, rebound and play together. All things they’ve become increasingly efficient at as the season has continued.
“Our defense has to be a team defense,” Sierra Pacific coach Amy Bush said. “We don’t have another 6-footer to play directly with their 6-footer.”
Bush was referring to 6-foot-2-inch Bakersfield Christian Eagle Dami Sule. The Eagles’ freshman averaged 9.7 points per game this season and collected 13 rebounds per game. She’s sure to be a challenge in the paint and on the glass.
Bush wants the girls to get their hands in passing lanes and move their feet on defense to slow her down. Also, since they use an aggressive full-press, they’ll have to be careful they don’t get into foul trouble. And that goes for all of the girls.
Each one will be just as important as the next if they’ll want to make it to Selland Arena and even the state tournament.
“A win from here on out is everybody,” Bush said. “Whether you’re on the court or you’re on the bench or you’re a coach, everybody has to make sure you take responsibility of your role.”
Bakersfield Christian (21-8, 9-3 SSL) also has a great scoring point guard in Lanie Jackson who led her team with 17.7 points and 7.3 assists per game. Jackson helped the No. 4 seed Eagles defeat 5-seed McFarland and 13-seed Highland by a combined 47 points.
But Sierra Pacific (26-4, 10-0 ESL), the defending Division IV champions, also have plenty of talent. Aside from being the No. 1 seed — and deservedly so — they handily beat 16-seed Mira Monte 80-32 and 8-seed Kerman 77-44 to advance to the semis.
As is custom for the Golden Bears, everyone contributed in their first two playoff games with Celeste Lewis leading them in scoring in both. Lewis scored 27 points in the first game and 24 in her second one.
Hailey Bettencourt and Alana Roberts put up double figures in each playoff game as well.
Of course, the final score didn’t matter to Bush. She said they don’t talk about the score. They talk about what they can improve on and get better at. She referenced the Mira Monte game, which they won by 48 points, in saying they had seven turnovers in the first half and weren’t executing at times.
“This can make a difference later on down the road,” Bush said. “What are your intentions? What are your goals? Is your goal just to make it out of this game or is it going to be to get something out of it?”
The Golden Bears were the East Sequoia League champions this year and have won 16 games in a row, most by a wide margin, but as Bush put it, she doesn’t foresee any of these couple games being blowouts.
And if it gets down to a close game in the final minutes, Bush and her squad are prepared for that.
“Honestly, it’s something that we’ve been working on,” Bush said. “We have run through different situations because it’s something that you need to do in order to prepare.”
The Golden Bears haven’t been in a close game since they played Strathmore on Jan. 16 and won 54-42. They actually trailed at halftime, but rallied in that game to stay perfect in league.
This is the third year in a row the Golden Bears have made it to the semifinals, so the experience is already there. Bush said the mentality headed into the game is the same as the rest of them and stressed that the team has to “just be ready.”
The Golden Bears will begin their semifinal game tonight at 7 p.m.