Turlock and Pitman High varsity girls’ basketball dominated the Central California Conference just a year ago, finishing atop the standings in the programs’ penultimate season in the CCC.
The Turlock Bulldogs ousted all with a 10-2 CCC record, claiming the title outright, with a regular season finale showdown against the Pitman Pride, who followed in second at 9-3.
Now in the final year in the CCC, both teams are set on leaving their respective marks in league history.
It will take a full team effort to solidify a successful season, but both head coaches and squads couldn't be any more confident heading into the 2017-18 year.
“I would say there is a positive outlook on the season,” said Pitman head coach Dustin Curtiss. “The team put in hard work in the offseason and with the players coming back we have high expectations. I see the effort there early at practice and I think we can do some special things.”
“We have just been talking about taking one game at a time and trying to put ourselves in a great position to win and go to the playoffs,” said Turlock head coach Mark Musselman. “We need to get better every day at practice and make each other better. Our goal is to make playoffs.”
In order to do so, Turlock will have to rely heavily on junior Jaydon Williams, alongside a solid cast that went 20-8 just a year ago. Williams led her team in points per game (13.5), rebounds (8.3) and steals (4.1).
Turlock also returns Sarah Musselman and Hope Salsig, two proven ball handlers to take charge and lead the Bulldog squad to perhaps back-to-back league titles, along with the assistance of Jada Washington.
“We basically are returning four starters, it's helpful but we can't be content, we have to come to work every day and get better,” said Musselman. “It's a good morale; they just want to work and get better each day, it's what we talked about, pushing each other and making one another better — always hungry.”
The year will also cast four new head coaches in the CCC, a challenge that Musselman and Curtiss are not taking lightly.
“It is hard to anticipate, we are looking forward to the challenge, to defend the title and it is not going to be easy because the CCC is balanced,” said Musselman about repeating as CCC champs. “There are multiple new coaches in the CCC, we may not know the tendencies, not gonna be easy, cannot sneak up on anybody this year. It's gonna be tough.”
Runners up in the CCC last year, the Pitman Pride have the luxury of returning one of the best players, if not the best, in Kaylin Randhawa who recently received a scholarship and signed on to play ball at the University of Pacific.
Randhawa dominated the court last season, averaging 16.3 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game along with 2.7 steals and 1.4 blocks.
“Kaylin coming back and playing since freshman year is big, with college taken care of and coming back is Olivia Salafia two years of varsity,” said Curtiss.
According to Curtiss, he is also expecting big minutes and big plays from Sydney Smith, Gracie Alves and Claire Fountain.
“We have 13 players this year and I think all of them can help us out,” said Curtiss. “I know all 13 can definitely play basketball. If we have a break with players, not have much of a drop off, and many of the JV players coming up are a few very good players.”
With just one win away from capturing a league title last year, Curtiss and his squad are eager to take to the court and showcase the talent on this year's team.
“We made progress and had a good stretch in league, won a few in a row and Turlock got us at the end, made lot of strides though,” Curtiss added.
Turlock won’t make it easy to take the title this year, however.
“Our preseason is tough. We are in the MC tournament, play Lincoln of Stockton, Edison, Sonora, then West Coast Jamboree and play up there,” Musselman said. “Everyone we have in preseason made playoffs last year. You gotta play the best to get better. You hope to play the MC's of the world and see where you stand.”
Turlock will host Downey in the Foundation Game at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Pitman will open up the season at West of Tracy at 7 p.m. Tuesday.