After going 3-2 in the first round of the North Sequoia League, the Yosemite Badgers girls basketball team focused on avenging its losses to Sierra and Washington Union. Mission one was accomplished with a 40-34 win over the Chieftains in the Sierra gym, then after a 67-29 romp over Liberty Ranchos, the Badgers set their sights on the game with Washington Union in a Feb. 9 game at YHS.
With the Yosemite win over Sierra, the Union team was expected to come into the contest at Yosemite only one game back of first place Sierra. But those expectations had been shattered by an upset win by the Kerman Lions. The result was that both the Badgers and Panthers had 5-2 league records and both needed a victory to have any shot of joining the Chieftains at the top of the league standings.
Since Yosemite Coach Gary Blate took over the Yosemite Girls program in 2003, the Badgers have won or shared 12 of the 13 league championships.
With both teams packing into a zone defense, the game started out slow with the Badgers taking an 8-6 lead after the first quarter but Washington rallied to go into the half with the score tied 16-16.
The lead changed hands several times deep into the final period with the Panthers holding a 34-33 with under 30 seconds to play and the Badgers on offense.
Yosemite’s 5-foot-10 freshman center Hailey Rich, had missed three 3-point shots from the top of key earlier in the game but this time caught a pass well beyond the arc and swished the long shot to put the Badgers up by two in front of the roaring home town crowd.
The Badgers defense got the ball back with senior Ashlee Harrell getting fouled with five seconds to go. Harrell made one of her free throws to give the Badgers a three point lead which held when the Panthers desperate 3-point shot missed, giving Yosemite a 37-34 win and sole possession of second place.
Senior Allie Stearns was the leading Yosemite scorer with 10 points while senior guard Jessica Fine and Rich both had nine.
Each basket was critical for Yosemite with the five starting seniors only making 3 of 27 2-point attempts. Fine hit three of seven 3-point shots to keep Yosemite in the game.
Senior forward Lynette Combs had 10 rebounds for the Badgers.
Heroics again for Rich
Rich continued her heroics in YHS’s Feb. 12 game against Chowchilla by scoring six points in the fourth quarter in a nail-biting 43-42 Yosemite victory. Rich finished with nine points to lead the Badgers in scoring while Harrell, Stearns, and Combs each scored eight.
Another freshman player, Grace Fries, contributed six points to the victory.
While Chowchilla hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and five overall in the game, the Badgers combined to make only one 3-point shot in 19 attempts.
In the fourth quarter, Stearns was 4-4 and Rich 2-2 in free throws which allowed the Badgers to maintain a slim lead. Combs hit a free throw to give Yosemite a four point lead with seconds to go and Chowchilla quickly answered with a 3-pointer and a foul.
After the Badgers missed both free throws, Chowchilla had possession of the ball and called timeout to set-up a play. The long Chowchilla inbound pass was intercepted by Rich to seal the victory and give Yosemite its first six-game win streak of the season.
The Badgers completed the league season on the road against Kerman Tuesday, a team which held an 18-16 halftime lead against the Badgers in the first round before going down 43-29. The Lions beat Washington Union 42-28 days before the Badgers struggled to beat the Panthers by three points.
Yosemite needed a win by Union over Sierra last Friday to earn a share of the NSL crown but the Chieftains pulled out a 45-43 win to earn the championship of the most competitive league campaign in 15 years.
Play-offs begin Feb. 23
The CIF playoff seedings will be announced Friday with first round action of the 16 team brackets starting on Wednesday, Feb. 24 for the Girls with a just a few games expected to be played in the first round depending on how many teams enter the D-II playoffs.
The Badgers expect to play in the opening round with a round two game scheduled for Friday, Feb. 26.
Yosemite High Correspondent