The Yosemite Badgers varsity girls basketball team (10-10, 1-0 North Sequoia League) opened league action with a 48-33 win over rival Sierra (8-7, 0-1 NSL) Jan. 13, giving Coach Gary Blate his 500th high school career win and the team’s fifth straight win.
The two teams have won or shared all the girls basketball league championships since 2003. With the Badgers getting the opening league win, it could put them in good position to seek a 13th league crown in the past 15 seasons.
The week prior to the league opener the Badgers won their first tournament championship since 2010, beating Madera, Kingsburg and Sanger. The momentum continued into the Sierra game as the Badgers closed the first quarter with a 13-8 lead.
The teams played even for the next two quarters but the array of Yosemite weapons proved too much for the Chieftains defense in the fourth quarter.
Sophomore point guard Lilly Graffigna had her best game of the season with 13 points including 5 of 6 from the free throw line. She also had 3 assists and 2 steals.
Another sophomore, 5-foot-10 forward Sophie McGoldrick had a double/double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Badgers accomplished the victory without as much coming from the usual contributors. Leading team scorer, sophomore Grace Fries had 9 points before fouling out while the leading season rebounder, 5-foot-10 junior Siena Oswald was hampered by foul trouble and 5-foot-10 sophomore center Hailey Rich played limited minutes after being ill during the week.
Junior Allison Bernardi picked up the slack inside on defense and senior guard Carly Baldwin made some key points each time Sierra made a run.
Blate gets 500th victory
With the win over Sierra, Blate joins an elite list of girls coaches with 500 high school career wins. His career win-loss record is currently 500-342, a winning percentage of nearly 60%.
The 500 wins are over a 31-year coaching career for Blate, including 12 years as the girls coach at Loara High School in Anaheim, four years as the YHS boys varsity coach and this, his 15th season as the YHS girls coach.
On Dec. 30, a 47-24 win over Hoover High of Fresno gave Blate his 300th win as coach of the Yosemite girls team, joining the “Top 10” list of girls coaches in the Central Section with 300 wins according to section historian Bob Barnett. His win-loss record with the girls at Yosemite now stands at 304-134, a winning percentage of nearly 70%.
Doug White of Corcoran has the most girl wins (447-199) in the Central Section. Only three coaches on the list are still active including Blate, White and Cathy Lauritzen at Sierra.
At the state level, according to CalHisports, the high school girl’s coach with the most career wins is Joe Vaughn of Ventura Buena with 761, from 1976 until his retirement in 2007. No. 2 and No. 3 on the state list are Kevin Kiernan of Santa Ana Mater Dei and Brian Harrigan from St. Francis of Mountain View - both expected to hit 700 this season.
There are 27 girl’s coaches in the state with 500 or more wins in girls basketball.
Yosemite Athletic Director Rusty Oetinger said the school is excited to see Coach Blate reach such an outstanding coaching milestone.
“Gary has been a dedicated and hard working YHS coach that has not only added good coaching, but increased the basketball atmosphere on campus,” Oetinger said. “Congratulations to him for his tenacity and commitment to the athletes at Yosemite High School.”
Blate’s girls teams have won or shared 12 league championships in 14 seasons and he has taken YHS to seven Central Section title games, winning four times.
Badgers at home Friday against Washington Union
On Wednesday the team hosted Liberty-Madera Ranchos (score not available at press time) and on Friday all the Yosemite basketball teams face Washington Union at home. Girls JV at 3:30 p.m. - boys JV 4:45 - girls varsity 6 - boys varsity 7:30.
Blate will be recognized for his 500th win prior to the girls varsity game.
Yosemite High Correspondent