Since Gary Blate became head coach of the girls basketball program in 2003, the Badgers have finished second place in league two times. The other 13 seasons the Lady Badgers won league titles either outright (10 times), or shared (3 times including last season when the team settled for a co-championship with Kerman).
This year’s team is expected to do well since only one senior graduated last season and the top four scorers were sophomores led by 5-foot-6 shooting guard Grace Fries who averaged almost 15 points a game with a high game of 31.
Point Guard Lilly Graffigna returns for her junior season averaging about 6 points a game and finished the season last year with 110 assists.
Two 5-foot-10 junior forwards, Sophie McGoldrick and Hailey Rich both averaged 8 points a game last year.
“All four of these players have improved substantially since their sophomore season,” Head Coach Gary Blate said.
The fifth starter is a 5-foot-10 senior Siena Oswald who was the North Sequoia League Defensive Player of the Year leading the team in rebounds.
The back line will be bolstered by another senior, 5-foot-10 Allison Bernardi, who is also much improved and will contribute points off the boards.
Juniors Linnea Leinau and Kelsey Montalto give the team depth and speed at the guard position while senior Lily Webb, the only player up from last year’s JV team, is a dead-eye outside shooter.
Oswald, coming off a long volleyball season, said the team is very eager for the season to begin.
“Like our volleyball team was, this team is close and we are already starting to gel,” Oswald said.
Tough pre-league schedule
The Badgers scrimmaged last Saturday in a multi-school carnival held at Yosemite High School and met expectations with the front line dominating the paint and the guards executing the fast break.
In addition to Yosemite, team’s participating in the scrimmage were Clovis West, Mariposa, McFarland, Chowchilla and Minarets.
Yosemite will play a difficult pre-league schedule that began Tuesday with an away game against the top five ranked Clovis Cougars. Tonight, Yosemite participates in the Clovis West Tournament, opening the game with private school powerhouse Sierra Canyon High School at 7 p.m.. Some of the top teams in the state are participating in the tournament including Clovis West which last year won the State Open Division and was recognized as the ESPN High School National Champions.
The Badgers then play in the Hoover and Madera tournaments prior to traveling to San Diego to take part in the Dec. 27-30 Prep Holiday Classic.
First home game Jan. 4
After a month on the road, the Badgers play at home Jan 4-6 in the Yosemite Shootout and will play at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday with Saturday’s game TBA.
North Sequoia League action should be very competitive this season as co-champ Kerman returns their best player, 6-foot-1 Breanna Hurt. Sierra and Chowchilla should also be good enough to compete for the NSL Championship.
The Yosemite High School gym features new scoreboards, an electronic message center, lighted logos, a custom 10-foot Badger banner and other aesthetic improvements. The project was funded by community sponsors whose names appear on the custom ‘sponsor panel’ below the main scoreboard and on a banner outside the gym entrance. The gym lights were replaced last year and the Yosemite gym is now a great place to watch athletic events.
Yosemite was 18-12 least season and went to the CIF Central Section D-II playoff semi-finals, losing to Bakersfield. The team competes at the D-2 level with 711 students, playing schools with well over 2,000 students. This is the competitive equity model adopted by the CIF which places schools in playoff divisions based on past success or failure.
Yosemite High Correspondent