It’s the game Pitman High’s girls had been waiting for all season — the Central California Conference home opener against defending league champions Buhach Colony High.
In what head coach Dustin Curtiss described as a trial by fire, the Lady Pride hit their home court Tuesday night determined to emerge unscathed and set the tone for their season with an upset win. Instead, Pitman was burned by a seasoned Buhach team in lopsided 28-57 loss.
“They’re obviously the favorite in the league, so I think it was a good test for us. There were a few things that I wasn’t happy with where we’re at, so we obviously can get better,” Curtiss said. “It’s not the best to see them in the first game of league, but somebody has to do it so why not us.”
Though never in the power position, Pitman did experience a fair amount of success in the first half. With fresh legs on defense and the aggressive style of third-year starter Cady Riley, the Pride found themselves down by only eight points by halftime.
Unfortunately for Pitman, Buhach entered the third period with a high level of intensity as its girls smothered Pitman’s ball handlers, forced turnovers, and netted a plethora of transition points. Soon enough the Thunder’s lead was in double digits.
“I think in the second half we got a little tired, we got a little frustrated, because they came out and kind of blitzed us to start the third quarter and I think we were kind of in shock. By the time we realized it, it was a 20 point game,” Curtiss said.
The combination of Allison Wisdom—considered by many to be the best player in the CCC—and Brandy Coward proved to be too much for Pitman as Wisdom netted 21 points and Coward scored 10 points. But more than good play by the Thunder tandem, Pitman suffered from a lack of communication and cohesiveness, struggles associated with a young roster.
“It’s something that we’re constantly working with. A lot of these girls, this is only their 16th game playing together,” Curtiss said. “Most of them, it’s only their 16th game of varsity basketball. So just the whole camaraderie of being able to work off each other, just communication, we’re constantly building on that.”
As one of the few players with significant experience, Riley scored 13 points of Pitman’s 28 points on the night while fellow junior Mackenzie Hassett finished with six points.
“She leads by example. She’s not a very vocal person and we’re trying to get her to be more vocal in practice and in the games, but she’s more of a lead by example kind of person. You see how hard she plays the game and we’re trying to get everybody to play at that level,” Curtiss said.
Luckily for Pitman, its girls will get a full week of practice before their next game, giving Curtiss ample time to work on a game plan to take on Merced High next Tuesday.
“If we can copy what we did in that first half I think we’ll be OK in league. We’re playing the perennial best team in the league— the defending champs with almost everybody back—and we’re down eight at halftime,” Curtiss said. “We showed signs of being very competitive. I don’t know if they even expected us to keep it within eight points at halftime. But again, in the second half we got a little tired and a little worn down and like a good team does they took advantage of it.”