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Tulare Mid-Winter Showcase Invitational kicks off

Hanford guard Kate McClard shoots with a defender's hand in her face in the third quarter during a game against Redwood earlier this season. The Bullpups face McLane in their first game of the Tulare Mid-Winter Showcase Invitational.

The 9th Annual Tulare Mid-Winter Showcase Invitational is set to tip off at 10 a.m. today with 16 teams playing at three different high schools: Mission Oak, Tulare Western and Tulare Union.

Hanford (6-7) and Hanford West (2-10, 0-1 WYL) will be the two local girls basketball teams in the invitational.

Hanford is coming off a 2-2 outing at the St. Joseph-Righetti tournament where they alternated four wins and losses. The Bullpups defeated Arroyo Grande 55-51, lost to Righetti 75-53, then blew out St. Joseph 55-37 before finishing with a 57-49 loss to Lompoc.

Hanford guard and captain Kate McClard led her team in scoring three out of the four games, but struggled with foul trouble throughout the tournament, even fouling out of two games. Her best game came against Lompoc where she poured in a team-high 21 points, while grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing two assists, nabbing five steals and sinking 11 free throws.

Junior guard Sapphire Jones, the team’s second-leading scorer, was right behind her scoring-wise in the tournament and led in scoring against Righetti. In that matchup, Jones had a team-high 20 points with five rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block.

“There were some aspects of the game that we improved on,” coach Doug Pitkin said. “Playing against bigger teams really kind of exposed our weaknesses of getting on the glass and getting defensive rebounds.”

Pitkin, Hanford’s head coach, also added his team gave up far too many possessions to teams that had a big front court and the size difference. It’s something he hopes to address in the Mid-Winter Showcase Invitational by having the girls be more aggressive in the front court either by pressuring the ball or running a press.

The idea is to prevent the post-entry pass and make it harder for bigger teams to get easy points in the paint. Some of that was already implemented in the St. Joseph-Righetti tournament, which came up with some mixed results.

“We ran a new press out there and we did it fairly well,” Pitkin said. “We’re such a young team the biggest challenge we have is having everyone go full speed.”

Pitkin wants his team running at all times because they’re not “big enough or skilled enough to play slow” and with young players, confusion and doubt has led to a slowing of the offense at times.

It’s not a big surprise with four freshmen who are playing plenty of minutes, but with a young team they’re going to continue playing. “Unfortunately, the best teacher there is experience and so we’re going to have to take our bumps and bruises with it,” Pitkin said.

Hanford will get things started against winless McLane (0-9) at 10 a.m. at Mission Oak High School.

Hanford West enters the invitational after a tough showing at the Dinuba-Orosi Holiday Classic where they went 1-3 and lost their final three games. With only two wins on the season, the Huskies will have their hands full with two-time defending showcase champions Mission Oak (6-1). The game begins at 11:45 a.m. at Mission Oak High.

Win or lose, Hanford West’s second game will be at Mission Oak High either at 5 p.m. (loss) or 6:45 p.m. (win).

Hanford will play at 1:30 p.m. at Tulare Union High if they lose and at 3:15 p.m. at Tulare Western High if they win.

The first round will consist of eight games and the second round will split the winners and losers into a championship bracket and consolation bracket for another eight games. A total of 16 games are slated for today and it will run through Saturday.

Other teams participating in the invitational: Redwood (3-7, 0-1 WYL), Dinuba (10-3), Tulare Union (9-3), Bakersfield (6-1), Porterville (11-1), Corcoran (2-8), 2016 runners-up Monache (7-6), Legacy (1-5, 1-0 SGL), Pioneer Valley (2-5), Tulare Western (1-8), Templeton (4-1) and Nipomo (3-5).

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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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