After going undefeated in North Sequoia League play, the Yosemite High girls basketball team (23-6, 10-0 NSL) received the No. 2 seed in the CIF Central Section D-II playoffs, and will host No. 7 seed Tehachapi (13-13, 3-7) at 6 p.m. Friday.
Tehachapi’s leading scorer and rebounder are both sophomores - Teagan Thurman is averaging 16.6 points per game and Taylor Linzie averages 10.4 rebounds per game.
If the Badgers win, they will play at home on Wednesday night, Feb. 28, against the winner of the No. 6 seed Redwood (16-10, 10-2) of Visalia and No. 3 seed Mission Oak (21-6, 10-0) of Tulare.
The Badgers and Blate have a history with the Tehachapi Warriors. In 2004, Yosemite won a CIF Championship winning a tough semi-final game at Tehachapi.
The Warriors had many reasons to win that game and were playing in front of a large home crowd. The schools had met in the CIF football finals that fall and the Tehachapi fans repeatedly pointed to the CIF football championship banner hanging in the Tehachapi gym as the Warriors opened up a double digit lead in the fourth quarter.
A made 3-pointer and a 5-point play on a breakaway layup (foul and technical foul), brought Yosemite within striking distance with 2 minutes to go in the game.
Another Yosemite 3-point shot and two field goals on successive trips down the court quieted the Tehachapi bleachers as the Badgers beat the Warriors and went on to the CIF Finals and four straight CIF Championships.
The Badgers and Warriors faced each other the next season in the CIF Finals, the first time being played at Selland Arena. The Warriors were out for revenge and with a much bigger team had a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter.
But four 3-point shots by four different Yosemite players plus three free throws brought the Badgers another come from behind victory.
The teams played another semi-final game in 2008 with Yosemite leading all the way and winning 52-38.
Drillers No. 1
The Bakersfield High Drillers (18-4, 9-1) are this season’s No. 1 seed in the division. The team’s leading scorer is 5-foot-10 senior Taylor Caldwell averaging 13.1 points per game with junior McKenna Hziung the team’s second leading scorer (12.1 ppg).
Rounding out the seven-team D-II bracket is No. 4 and 5 Shaftner and Liberty, respectively. The Badgers lost to the Drillers 56-43 last year in the semi-finals round, and then Independance High beat Bakersfield for the D-II section title.
The D-II Central Section Championship game will be played at 6 p.m. on Feb. 2 in Fresno’s Selland Arena.
There’s a good chance Yosemite and Bakersfield could meet for the section title if the Badgers get by Tehachapi and Mission Oak. It was Mission Oak that defeated the Badger’s volleyball team in the semi-finals round of the D-II volleyball playoffs.
League titles 14 of past 16 seasons
Yosemite’s undefeated league season was the first since 2010. The Badgers have won outright or shared 14 of the past 16 league championships and have a league record of 151-13 since Coach Gary Blate took over in 2003.
Yosemite’s last NSL game this season was at Kerman Feb. 13. The Lions beat Yosemite last year in the final game of the regular season for a share of the NSL title.
This year the league crown had already been clinched by Yosemite but the Lions till wanted the win.
The Lions had the top scorer in the league in 6-foot sophomore Breanna Hurt who had scored 50 points in Kerman’s previous game, a 67-36 win over Liberty. The Badgers had limited Hurt to 7 points in the first round game with Kerman.
Playing in front of a large supportive crowd, the Lions managed a 9-9 tie after the first quarter. Kerman also scored 9 points in the second and third quarters but the Badgers got baskets from six players scoring a total of 27 points in the third quarter, giving Yosemite a 36-27 lead going into the final period.
Hurt had 12 points after three quarters, and not only was she held scoreless in the fourth quarter, the team could only manage 4 points, falling to Yosemite 46-31.
Grace Fries was Yosemite’s leading scorer with 11 points but went the entire game without making a 3-point shot. Fries leads the section with 100 made 3 point-shots, is No. 2 in the state and tied for No. 17 in the nation.
Hailey Rich contributed a double/double with 10 points and 11 rebounds while Siena Oswald had 8 points and 9 rebounds.
With the the Badgers ready to enter the playoffs, it is not a good time for the team to have its shooting go cold - against Kerman, the team made just 2 of 19 three-point shots in the game and only 2 of 7 free throws in the fourth quarter, still managing to win by double digits.
JV team gets NSL title
The Badger JV team (22-2, 10-0 North Sequoia League) finished its outstanding season with a 23-12 win over Kerman, and winning the NSL title after going undefeated in league play for the first time in many years.
Against Kerman, Keylee Andersen had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Head Coach James Anderson captured his first JV title since taking over the program three years ago. The team rebounded from an 8-13 record last season.
“This team really came together,” Andersen said. “They have been playing together since fifth grade and are getting better each year. I am proud of their work ethic and the team unity. The girls play for each other and with that talent and attitude will be a force for Yosemite in the next couple years.”