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Added numbers give Lady Jackets hope
hilmar girls basketball
Hilmar senior Oliviah Gemperle works against Turlocks Ruby Mancilla during Tuesdays foundation game between the Yellowjackets and Bulldogs. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

Last season Hilmar High’s girls basketball team struggled with numbers, boasting a nine person roster and making life tough in the already challenging Trans Valley League. But things are looking up for the Yellowjackets this season, Hilmar returns with five experienced players and a couple newcomers in what head coach Don Inman sees as a playoff caliber team.

“Our group of returners is the core of the team and looking really strong right now,” Inman said. “The TVL will be a dogfight, but our goal is to make the playoffs.”

Now with 13 players on the squad, Hilmar has been able to improve its practices, which has translated to improved performance on the court. Seniors Oliviah and Savannah Gemperle and Victoria Whitford along with junior Dominique Miranda and sophomore Kinsey Pettigrew round out Hilmar’s veterans while the junior tandem of Lexie Victoria and Valerie Ewing constitute the new blood on the team.

“Our team athleticism is a lot stronger this year,” Inman said. “I feel like our defense is coming along to make us a much better defensive ball club than last year.”

The ‘Jackets newfound defensive prowess and power in numbers were on full display against Turlock High on Tuesday. Hilmar defeated the Bulldogs 46-38 in a promising start to the new season.

Still, Hilmar lacks significant height, which will make a run for the TVL title much harder than it already will be, especially against the likes of Modesto Christian and Ripon High.

“My belief is that the TVL is the toughest league for girls basketball, top to bottom,” Inman said. “We’re going to have to be a scrappy team that goes for every loose ball.”

Hilmar continues its pre-season on Monday when it travels to Denair High to face the Coyotes.