Lady Badgers prepare for challenging basketball season

The Yosemite High girls basketball team is looking forward to a successful season this year but will face difficult challenges in the pre-league schedule and in the North Sequoia League.

Last year, the Badgers string of 11 straight league championships came to a halt as Yosemite was beaten by the Sierra Chieftains twice in league and also was upset by Kerman resulting in a 7-3 league record and second place. Sierra went on to win the CIF Central Section D-III title.

Despite the second place finish, the Badgers went on to win their first D-II playoff game in three years, beating two-time CIF champion Ridgeview of Bakersfield. Yosemite was defeated in the second round of playoffs by Garces High School of Bakersfield which ultimately won the CIF D-II crown.

The Badgers’ graduation losses include last year’s North Sequoia League most valuable player, Sierra Dominici, who is now playing at Fresno City College. Other players who graduated were three-year varsity players Julia Walsh, a student at University of Washington, Kaley Mumm, and Jensen Eames, who attend Fresno State, and two-year player Page Peterson who is a student at the Fashion Institute in Los Angeles.

Coach Gary Blate returns for his 13th season leading the team, assisted by Erik Peterson and Ashley (Stearns) Lassos.

Miller shooting for 1,000 Point Club

This year the Badgers will be led by four-year varsity players, seniors 5-foot-10 Veronica Miller, and 5-foot-8 Mattaya Brown.

Miller was an Fresno Bee Honorable Mention All Valley player last season as she averaged a double-double, 13 points, and 10 rebounds a game. She needs 376 points to become the 6th member of the Badgers girls basketball 1,000 point club after scoring 355 last season.

Former players in the club include Karras Blate, Katie Menton, Ashley Stearns, Jenay Herring and Sydnee Fipps. Miller also has an outside chance of becoming the second Badger to grab 1,000 rebounds in a career, joining Fipps, but Miller would have to break Fipps’ season record of 349 and get 407 rebounds.

“Mattaya will be counted on for floor leadership, defensive intensity and is also a scoring threat,” Blate said.

Joining Brown and Miller is 6-foot-3 senior Taylor Burrall who will be much improved in her second year of playing basketball after a stellar career with the Yosemite volleyball team.

“Taylor should be a low post scoring threat and a dynamic anchor to the Badgers’ Blate said.

Allie Stearns, a 5-foot-7 junior, was the leading scorer on the JV team last season and will play an important role this year as the shooting guard. Another junior who played JV last season, 5-foot-7 Lynette Combs, will play multiple positions.

Other team members include Jessica Rudd, a 5-foot-7 three-year player, who is one of the top golfers in the Valley, 5-foot-9 Kristin Bonillas, the No. 2 player on the Badgers tennis team, and 5-foot-5 Emma Reda, a scrappy guard who was moved to varsity from the JV team last year. Ashlee Harrell, 5-foot-8, and 5-foot-9 Jessica Fine are both expected to get a lot of playing time at the forward spots.

Blate said his team will need to run the floor aggressively to be successful and it should be an exciting team to watch.

The Badgers open the season at home with a multi-school scrimmage (eight teams including Minarets and Mariposa) on Saturday, Nov.29, with the JV teams starting at 9 a.m., and the varsity teams at noon.

Foundation Game Dec. 2

At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 2, the Badgers host its annual Foundation Game against Clovis High School. The JV team plays at 5:30. The Foundation Game is played like a real game but does not count for stats or on the team record.

Clovis is a quality opponent and should provide a good preview for the Yosemite running game.

This season the Badgers play up and down the state in four tournaments, opening Dec. 4-6 at the Elk Grove High School Tournament in Sacramento. The next week Yosemite takes on Central Section foes in the Hoover (Fresno) Holiday Tournament Dec. 10-13. On Friday, Dec. 19, the Badgers play Buchanan (Clovis) at the Alta Sierra junior high gym. Dec. 26-30, the girls play in the prestigious San Diego Holiday Prep Classic which features more than 70 teams in seven divisions.

The Badgers open the North Sequoia League play at rival Sierra on Friday, Jan.16.

The Sierra game should be interesting as the Chieftains have also been moved up to D-II after winning the D-III title last season. Yosemite, with about 740 students, and Sierra with 521 are by far the smallest schools in the State in D-II, which has schools with an average enrollment of about 2,000 students.

“Sierra returns key players and will likely be one of the top ranked teams in the Section D-II rankings,” Blate said. “Our players should have a lot of incentive to improve this season.”

The Badgers have not gone into a season as underdogs in 12 years so that should make for an interesting and exciting season.

Former players at college

Former Yosemite basketball players competing at the college level this season include Sydnee Fipps (2011), a senior on the UC Davis team who could be the all-time leading scorer after the season. The Aggies opened the season on Nov. 14, against No. 1 ranked and NCAA defending champion UCONN, losing 102-43. Fipps has scored over 1,000 points in her D-1 collegiate career.

Another 1,000 point scorer is Fresno Pacific University senior Jenay Herring (2010), the point guard and floor leader for the D-II Sunbirds.

Playing her second season at Reedley College is 6-foot-2 Dahlia Lopez (2013) who also plays volleyball for the school.

Fresno City College has been a community college power for many years and Sierra Dominici (2014) is competing for a starting spot for the Rams.

Alumni Game

The Badgers fundraising Alumni Game will feature former girls and boys players from the past and will be on Sunday, Dec. 21. The girls game is scheduled for 5 p.m. with boys game to follow. More information can be be obtained from Coach Blate at

- Yosemite High correspondent