For the Turlock High girls basketball team, the first round of the playoffs has been somewhat of a prison sentence.
This is how it works: The Bulldogs make the postseason only to discover that they can’t seem to get out of round one, no matter how hard they try.
Not on Tuesday night, however.
That’s when the No. 4 Bulldogs were finally able to smash down the walls of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Tournament, running past No. 13 Franklin High of Elk Grove with a 54-40 win in front of hundreds of fans at Bulldog Arena. It’s Turlock’s first playoff in four tries.
“It’s almost like a relief to finally prove to everyone that we are a good team,” said senior guard Camille Roberts, who finished with 13 points. “I’m ready for the next round. We’re all ready for the next round.”
The Bulldogs will play their quarterfinal game at home on Thursday at 7 p.m. against Armijo High, the 71-34 winner over Merced High. A win would send Turlock to the semifinals at the University of Pacific in Stockton.
Senior Nicole Serpa also came up big for the Bulldogs, as she finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Kayla Schumann also had 14 points, while teammate Sarah McMullen contributed with six points.
Lindy Avila only had three points, but her lone bucket was quite important.
Franklin was down 28-17 at halftime, thanks in part to being outrebounded 23-8. But the Lions rallied back with a 12-5 surge to open the third quarter. Iyona Copeland then knocked in five of 13 points, in addition to a bucket from Taylyn Handy, to cut the once big deficit to 34-33 with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left in the period.
Soon after, Avila nailed a 3 from the right wing.
“That was huge,” said Turlock coach Salinda Mabie, who finally got her first playoff win in her eighth season.
The Bulldogs closed the third with another 3-pointer, this time from Roberts, to make it 40-35. Turlock managed to hold the Lions to just one field goal in the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter. A 14-2 run also helped, giving the Bulldogs a 54-37 advantage late in the game.
With a few seconds left, the Turlock players began to celebrate. They were waiting for this moment for a long time.
“I told them they can spend a lot of time worrying about who they’re going to disappoint,” Mabie said. “They can disappoint their family and their fans, disappoint us. I told them, ‘Forget about everybody else. It’s about you. You spent four years to get here.’ No one is going to be disappointed at how hard you play.”
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