Big first quarter gives Sierra 58-45 win over Yosemite

The Sierra High girls basketball team (20-3, 6-1 North Sequoia League) entered the loud Yosemite High gym Feb. 4, and overwhelmed Yosemite (15-10, 6-1 NSL) in the first quarter scoring 20 points to the Badger’s 8.

The two teams played fairly even the rest of the game, but the Badgers could not overcome its slow start, and the torrid shooting of Sierra’s first quarter shooting, losing 58-45.

The Lady Badgers also lost sole possession of first place in league. The Chieftains scored just one more point than the Badgers in the remaining three quarters (38 to 37), but the damage was already done in the first quarter.

Yosemite upset Sierra in Auberry Jan. 16, 38-36. At the time Sierra was ranked No. 6 in the entire Central Section, and No. 2 in Division-II. The loss put Yosemite and Sierra in a tie for first in league and the two teams are expected to finish league play as co-champions.

There is a chance the two teams could meet again in the Central Section D-II play-offs that begin after league play. Sierra will receive a higher seeding in the play-offs due to the 13 point win, and the fact they have beaten the Badgers two out of three games this season.

For the first time in over 10 years, both schools will be the same CIF girls basketball playoff bracket in D-II.

Sierra won the D-III Central Section championship last year, and lost to Selma in the semi-finals the year before.

“Sierra showed why they are highly ranked and have some of the best players in the area after shooting about 80% to open the game,” said Yosemite Coach Gary Blate. “We played them even the rest of the way and had surges to close the gap but couldn’t close the deal.”

Yosemite got within five points of Sierra with under three minutes in the game.

Blate said Sierra and his team have been very competitive over the past six years, with each team having a sole and shared NSL championship over the past three seasons.

Veronica Miller led the Badgers with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Sierra.

Taylor Burrall had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 8 blocked shots. The 6-foot-3 senior is now No. 2 in the State in total number of blocked shots with 144. Ashlee Harrell had 9 rebounds and 8 assists, and senior Jessica Rudd hit two 3-point shots in the second half as the Badgers made runs to cut the lead.

“While it was very disappointing to lose to Yosemite in the first round of league play, I do believe it was a blessing because it lit a fire in our girls to want to be the best,” said Sierra Coach Cathy Lauritzen. “The team worked harder in practice, were more attentive, and had a determination that I haven’t seen before.”

She said her seniors really stepped up, especially post player Grace Wilson.

“Grace played an extraordinary game, and was a huge factor in keeping Yosemite’s Taylor Burrall out of the game,” Lauritzen said.

Displaying a balanced attack, Sierra had four players in double figures - Megan Stark and Kendall Cardoza had 14 points each, Wilson had 10, and Whitney Naylor had 12.

Badgers defeat Hawks 46-26

On Feb. 6, the Badgers traveled to Liberty and won 46-26. Yosemite was in control of the score for the entire game and substituted liberally.

Burrall had 14 points and 9 blocked shots in limited minutes. Miller had 12 points and 8 rebounds and the third senior starter, Mattaya Brown, finished with 9 points, 5 assists and 4 steals.

The team played Washington Union on Wednesday, and play at home (Senior Night) on Friday versus Chowchilla. JV game 5 p.m., varsity 6:30. The team completes it’s league schedule on Wednesday, Feb.18 at home against Kerman. If Yosemite and Sierra win out as expected, they will share the League crown for the third time in five seasons, each winning outright in the other two, with Yosemite winning the prior eight league championships.

The CIF playoffs brackets will be revealed the weekend following the Kerman game.

Yosemite and Sierra are by far the smallest schools in the CIF second highest Division. The other top teams in the D-II bracket have enrollments of 1,953 (Independence,), 2,058 (Redwood), and 2,173 (Madera). Yosemite’s enrollment is 742 and Sierra has 521 students.

The two schools are smaller than the D-IV’s top two ranked teams - Orosi with 959 students, and Porterville (1,860) - and the top four ranked D-III teams - Fresno (2,330), Mission Oak, (1,570), Tehachapai (1234), and North (1,701). Numbers from the CIF website.

Youth basketball clinics Feb. 17 & 18

The Yosemite High School basketball teams will conduct basketball clinics from 1:30-4:30 p.m. prior to their final League home games on Feb.17 (boys) and Feb.18 (girls). The clinics are for boys and girls grades 4-8. Cost is $20 and includes pizza dinner and admission the Yosemite vs. Kerman games immediately after the clinic/dinner.

Details: Coach Aaron Eames (boys), (559) 760-7762, Gary Blate (girls), (559) 760-3641.