In the past 11 years the Yosemite High Badger girls basketball team has won league championships, but in the last two seasons, the Badgers lost in the first round of the CIF Central Section D-II playoffs. Given the past success of the program, those two early departures from the section play-offs were considered by some to be disappointing. Those two play-off losses were to Madera and Redwood, schools with enrollments more than two and half times that of Yosemite High.
The past success has the girls basketball team competing with an enrollment of 700 plus, the smallest public school in the state competing at the D-II level. With schools generally around the 2,000 student population range, Yosemite would probably be the smallest public school in D-III, in which schools have enrollments of about 1,250 to 1,800.
This season the Badgers intend to compete with the top teams in D-II and would like to get back to playing in Selland Arena, a site in the past 10 years that the Yosemite team has played in more times than other teams in the Central Section.
The high hopes rest on a returning group of players and newcomers playing for coach Gary Blate which should bring back the fast-breaking, high-scoring, crowd-pleasing teams that played in front of a packed Yosemite gym in years past.
Dominici is team leader
Leading the way is senior two time all-league selection (North Sequoia League) Sierra Dominici, a 5-foot-6 dynamic player who moves over to the shooting guard position this year.
Dominici has a good outside touch and drives to the basket as hard as any player in the Valley. With better self-control that experience brings, and a renewed focus on getting the Badgers back to the Selland, Dominici should improve on last years Fresno Bee all area honorable mention selection.
The point guard position has depth with 5-foot-4 senior Julia Walsh, who started two years ago but sat out last season while rehabilitating after knee surgery. A talented junior, 5-foot-8 Mattaya Brown will see a lot of action at the point after plying there much of last season.
Both players are outside and inside threats and the key to a successful season rests on their defense and playmaking abilities. A returning senior, 5-foot-6 Page Peterson provides depth at the position.
Three forwards have two years varsity experience seniors Kaley Mumm, 5-10, and 5-8 Jensen Eames, and 5-10 junior Veronica Miller.
Mumm is a good three-point shooter and will also play some at center. Eames is very physical and has a renewed focus to get the Badgers back to Selland while Miller spent the summer as the Badgers leading scorer.
The only graduating senior from last year's squad was 6-foot-1 center Dahlia Lopez. She is replaced by 6-foot-2 junior Taylor Burrall playing her first year of basketball after starring on the Badgers' volleyball and track teams (hurdles and high jump). Burrall has a lot of potential and is a hard worker.
The remaining members of the squad add a lot of utility 5-foot-6 junior Jessica Rudd will see time at shooting guard 5-foot-8 sophomore Jessica Fine will play forward and should be valuable on the fast break after a cross-country season that saw her in the top three at the league meet.
Another sophomore, 5-foot-7 Ashlee Harrell is very athletic and will see action at forward and guard.
12th season for Blate
Blate returns for his 12th season at the Badgers helm having won league championships each season with four CIF Championships and three other finals appearances. During Blate's head coaching stint, the Badgers girls teams have won as many state playoff games as any other team in the Central Section.
He is assisted by Erik Peterson with former player Tricia O'Neill coaching the JV team and Shannon Wenger guiding the first Frosh/Soph team the Badgers have had in the past five years.
Next week the Badgers open the season at the Hoover Holiday Tournament (Dec. 12-14) and then the following week have a home game against Buchanan on Friday, Dec. 20, with the carsity playing at 6:30 p.m. after the two lower level games.
On Dec. 26, the varsity plays in the Garden Grove Tournament (Dec. 26-28) and then heads for a Henderson, Nev. tournament (Jan. 2-4). On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Badgers have a home game against Clovis North before starting a quest for a 12th league championship by hosting Sierra on Jan. 17.
On Jan. 19, the team participates in the MLK challenger at San Francisco City College against Newark Memorial.
The Badgers success with such a tough schedule could result in a higher seed and home games during the playoffs with ultimate goal returning to the Selland Arena.
ALUMNI NOTES: 2011 YHS graduate Sydnee Fipps was the leading scorer at UC Davis last season and resumed her leading ways by scoring 13 points in the first half against nationally ranked Stanford on November 24. In her more recent outing Fipps had 22 points in a victory over the University of Akron. Two 2010 graduates are playing at Fresno Pacific: Jenay Herring is a junior after redshirting last year after an injury. Herring was the Sunbirds leading scorer two years ago. Sienna Gonzales is a Senior. Both are playing for their 3rd head coach at FPU and are trying to get comfortable in another new system. Last year's only graduating Senior, Dahlia Lopez, is playing at Reedley College. The girls Yosemite alumni basketball game will be played at 2:30 on Sunday, December 22nd with the Boys game to follow.