The scoreboard read 48-47 with 37 seconds left in regulation. Pitman High was clinging to its only lead of the night and on the brink of a hard fought team victory against an undefeated Hilmar High.
Head coach Dustin Curtiss urged his girls to just play defense and let time run out on the Yellowjackets—but someone forgot to account for Oliviah Gemperle. With less than 30 seconds on the clock, Hilmar’s towering senior took the ball in her hands and drained her second consecutive trey; giving her team a two point lead and the eventual 50-48 victory.
“None of my shots fell in the first half,” Gemperle said. “I just shot. They were on me but it went in and I was real happy.”
“It feels good to beat three DI schools; it gives us confidence for league,” Gemperle added.
Tuesday’s victory over the Pride not only marked the ‘Jackets’ 10th straight win, it was also their third over a Division I team.
“Pitman’s a great program. I was looking to get our pre-season schedule a little more challenging this year and when I made that decision the first teams I looked for was Turlock and Pitman,” Hilmar’s head coach Don Inman said. “It feels great to win a game that was that tight at the end; we needed that for our program.”
Hilmar jumped out to a nine point lead by the end of the first quarter on Tuesday as Oliviah (15 points, 10 rebounds) and her twin sister Savannah Gemperle took on Pitman’s senior Alex DeChari in the paint. Still, the size of De Chari and the physicality of senior Jackie Kuharski and junior Estephanie Torres kept the Pride in the game. Pitman had several opportunities to overtake the ‘Jackets late in the second quarter but miscues led to a 24-19 halftime score in favor of Hilmar.
Pitman upped its aggression in the second half but the craftiness of Hilmar’s Dominique Miranda and the persistence of the Gemperle sisters kept their team ahead until the mid-point of the fourth quarter when Kuharski hit the first tying shot of the night. The Pride were on the court to hold on until the bitter end, but so was Hilmar.
“We’ve been very fortunate this year in the fourth quarter. We’ve been able to pull away from our opponents, but this one was the closest,” Inman said. “This group of kids, when they start looking like they’re getting out of control they find a way to suck it up and get the job done. In the nick of time they were able to persevere.”
Hilmar will now prep for a three day tournament over Christmas break, only a week removed from its championship run at the Hilmar Christmas Classic, before taking on Trans Valley League stalwart Modesto Christian High on Jan. 3.
Pitman will face Central Valley and Patterson High in the coming days before its Central California Conference home opener against Buhach Colony High on Jan. 8.