Yosemite High School girls basketball coach Gary Blate has a reputation of turning girls with little high school experience into talented players and league champions.
His record speaks for itself. He has a 70% winning percentage (294-124) record with the girls since taking over the program in 2003. Prior to that he was boys varsity coach for four seasons and coached the varsity girls at Loara High School in Anaheim for 12 years. His overall varsity record is 490-332 (60% winning percentage). He should hit the 500 win milestone in early December.
The Badgers have won 12 league championships in the 14 seasons Blate has been in charge of the program. Blate has taken the team to 7 CIF Finals, winning 4 times, and, except for league rival Sierra, always playing larger schools. For example, upcoming opponent Clovis was ranked No. 4 overall in the Central Section and in D-I last season.
Two of his Badger girls teams have won 30 games in a season, four years apart with no common players.
One of last year’s seniors, Allie Stearns, is on the roster at College of Sequoias making her the 20th Yosemite girls basketball player since 2003 to play in college.
Kaley Mumm (2014) and Mattaya Brown (2015) are currently playing at Reedley College. Sydnee Fipps (2011) is heading to Australia to play pro ball after an outstanding career at UC Davis and playing stints in Portugal and Germany. Katie Menton (2007) is an assistant coach at Fresno Pacific University with the Head Coach Tim Beauregard, a Yosemite grad (2000) who played on Blate’s 1999 League Championship team while he coached the boys.
The second leading scorer in Fresno Pacific University Womens Basketball history is another Yosemite player, Jenay Herring (2010). Herring was joined on the team at Fresno Pacific by another 2010 graduate, Sienna Gonzales. Menton, Fipps and Herring all had over 1000 points in their college careers duplicating their success in scoring for the Badgers.
They are members of the 1,000 Point Club (Menton and Fipps scored over 2,000 points each) along with 2016 assistant coach Ashley Lassos (Stearns) (2006) and Karras Blate Hacker (2005) who was the first Yosemite girl player to score 1,000 varsity points and who just had her first baby, hopefully a future Badger.
Five seniors lost to graduation
After starting five seniors last season during the second round of league and into the playoffs, taking the No. 1 seed Redwood into the fourth quarter with the lead, Blate has his work cut out for him this season as his 10-member team is made up of six sophomores, three juniors and one senior (a player who is returning to the team after sitting out last year). The returning leading scorer from last season, then a freshman, averaged less than four points a game. Nevertheless, Blate feels this team should be competitive.
That leading returning scorer is a 5-foot-10 sophomore Hailey Rich who will play center. Hailey is joined on the front line by two other 5-foot-10 players in junior Siena Oswald and sophomore Sophie McGoldrick. That sturdy trio is backed up by 5-foot-9 junior Allison Bernardi.
The combination of that size with the potential scoring of guards Lilly Griffigna and Grace Fries, both sophomores, along with another sophomore Linnea Linneau and senior Carly Baldwin, should get the Badgers up and down the court in their signature fast break.
The 10 player roster fills out with two utility players, sophomore Trinity Curtis and junior Kelsey Montalto, who can play guard or forward and will have key roles in the rotation.
“We don’t have a proven standout performer but at various times I’ll expect different players to step up to lead the team” Blate said. “The team is young but we won our first CIF Championship (2004) with a team that had no seniors so I’m looking to repeat that magic.”
The Yosemite Badgers girls basketball team opens the 2016-2017 season hosting Clovis at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29. The game is part of a doubleheader with the boys game against Mendota following at 7:30. The JV teams will play in the lower gym with the girls starting at 4 p.m. and the boys at 5:30.
Later in the week the varsity girls team goes to a tournament at Fairmont Prep School in Anaheim for games on Nov. 30 - Dec. 4.
Following the Anaheim trip, the team will play in the Hoover, Buchanan and Mill Valley tournaments. Yosemite is also hosting a Girls Basketball Winter Shootout on January 5th, 6th, and 7th featuring eight teams. After the tournaments, the Badgers open the league season on Friday, Jan. 13, at Sierra.