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Bulldogs edge out Pride at 9th annual Pitman Holiday Classic finale
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Alexis Goularte, a Turlock High senior, charges down the court during the ninth annual Pitman Holiday Classic (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

It was rough sledding for both the Pitman High and Turlock High varsity girls basketball squads this week, as they had each lost their first two games of the Pitman Holiday Classic tournament. On Wednesday, the Pride fell to Half Moon Bay by a score of 52-29 while the Bulldogs fell to Patterson High 41-22. On Thursday, it was more of the same for both teams as Argonaut High defeated the Pride 69-48 while Lodi High took down Turlock 50-27.

The losses led to a showdown between the two local teams on Friday afternoon for the seventh-place spot, serving as an opportunity to enter 2023 in the win column. Ultimately, a back-and-forth affair ended in favor of the Bulldogs, as they pulled away for a 34-30 victory.

The Bulldogs were led by the sharpshooting of senior Emilie Snyder, who finished with 15 points, all by way of three-pointers. Her long-distance display was at its best in the first half as she sunk four baskets in a row. The effort received high praise from head coach Erica Hernandez.

“Emilie played really well,” Hernandez said. “She was looking for those shots and she was smart and took the shots she knew she would make. She was just on fire.”

Hernandez also credited her team’s defensive effort, as they racked up 16 steals and forced a number of turnovers by the Pride.

“The effort and energy was there today. Our defense was kind of off the last two games in this tournament, so it was nice to go out there to play how we played,” she said. “I’m super proud that they were able to fix a couple things that needed to be fixed and end this tournament on a high note.”

The victory didn’t come without its challenges, though. The Pride themselves showcased tough defense throughout the entire game as well, particularly in the opening quarter. The Bulldogs were limited to just 2/9 shooting from the field as Pitman got off to an early 11-3 lead. Pitman senior Maddyn Hamasaki led the charge and finished with 7 points.

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Pitman's Kaitlyn Wu keeps a close eye on the Turlock defender as she drives down court (SAMANTHA SCHMIDT/The Journal).

“I loved the energy we came out with because we struggle with that a bit,” said Pitman first-year head coach Parmine Randhawa. “We came out with what I know we’re capable of and played great defense. We’ve been working and working to get four quarters of that and I think that’s what we saw today. In this tournament, each game we got better. Wednesday was a bit rough, Thursday was a lot better and today was probably the best game we’ve had.”

Randhawa also gave props to the Bulldogs and their perimeter shooting, as they finished with a total of nine threes.

“Kudos to Turlock. They played a great game and they hit a lot of threes. We played our zone [defense], and they did a great job at moving and hitting the open person… For me the threes were the difference in that game.”

The Bulldogs now improve their preseason record to 6-9 while the Pride drop to 1-14. Both teams will have a short break as they head into the new year before they have one last preseason game before Central California Athletic League play tips off.

The Pride will enter league competition as the reigning CCAL champions but will be without six key players from last season’s roster. Additionally, the Pride will continue to adjust to the absence of Dustin Curtiss, who left this head coaching role to become the school’s new athletic director following the retirement of Dave Walls.

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The Pride will enter league competition as the reigning CCAL champions but will be without six key players from last season’s roster (CHRIS CORREA/The Journal).

“Who we are now is definitely a lot different than who we were last year, so we’re figuring it out, but I only see things going up from here,” Randhawa said.

Hamasaki also believes that there is a step up in competitiveness from opposing teams now that they have a championship attached to their team.

“Last season was great to win the league, but it puts a target on our backs. Everybody wants what we have, but we just need to keep up the positivity and the good work,” Hamasaki said prior to the season.

Meanwhile on the Turlock side, there are still high hopes that even despite the recent hiccups at the Pitman tournament, 2023 can be the breakout that the Bulldogs were expecting at the start of the season since the majority of the roster played together last year.

“They’ve been able to play together a whole year now,” Hernandez said earlier this season. “We’ve been able to work together in the summer and fall and just kind of work at being a team.”

The Pride will start their title defense on Jan. 10 against Gregori High while the Bulldogs will begin their league run the same night against Modesto High.