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Pitman eliminates Turlock from playoffs in final regular season game
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Turlocks Hope Salsig drives the ball down the court during Tuesday's CCC finale matchup. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

The only thing Turlock needed to do in order to make the playoffs was defeat Pitman High in their home regular season finale on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately for Turlock’s varsity girls basketball team, the year ended in a crushing 47-45 loss to Pitman, which ends their year with a 7-3 Central California Conference record.

“Pitman is just deeper than us and they were able to execute tonight. At times it comes down to the last possession and they got their open look for the final basket. Good luck to them in the playoffs,” said Turlock head coach Mark Musselman about his team’s 4-6 CCC record.

“Give it up to them… they (Turlock) play really hard, I know they are undersized but they play so hard and get after it on defense and offense,” said Pitman head coach Dustin Curtiss. “It’s a battle when you play them and it will be tough for the next few years because they are young."

It has been nothing short of a great season for the Bulldogs, who have steadily progressed over Musselman’s three-year tenure thus far.

He has doubled his league wins since coming on board during the 2013-14 season when the team won only a single CCC contest that year. The Bulldogs went on to win two the following year, which is twice as many, only to end this year, with twice as many league wins as last season.

Last year, the team lost five league games by 20-plus points. Musselman led the Bulldogs to four league victories this season, and lost five of the six league games by seven points or less.

“When I started we were getting blown out by teams in our league, this year well… we were in all of our games,” said Musselman. “This is about family, you have to walk out of here remembering the great times we had this season, the great wins, because that will be forever, those memories you take into adulthood.”

Pitman ends the year with a two-game win streak, having won three of its last four games.

The Pride end the year with a 16-7 overall record, the team’s best since going 20-8 during the 2010-11 season.

“This is great for the girls, they deserve this,” said Curtiss. “It is a reward for them, to see their hard work pay off like this is great.”

Pitman went up early in the game, taking a 6-0 lead after the first two minutes of play, taking advantage of a lethargic start for Turlock.

Turlock settled down and went on a 15-8 run to close out the first with a 15-14 advantage before both sides exchanged scores and Turlock led 30-28 at the half.

Pitman finally found a way to combat against Turlock’s high energy defense game but it was an uncomfortable setting for the winning team.

“Best part of tonight is environment because it was a playoff environment,” said Curtiss. “We will be on the road and we will have to fight and we will have to defend and get buckets when we need them and tonight should prepare us for the playoff game.”

Pitman was able to fend off Turlock in the closing minutes despite a late surge from Jaydon Williams, who has been a star all year for the Bulldogs, who notched four quick points to take a 45-43 lead.

Turlock missed the following shot in the winding seconds, with an opportunity to take a four-point lead but Pitman’s Dezi Washington found the basket on the opposite end to tie it at 45-45 with less than 20 seconds left.

Pitman’s Mika Jimenez then drove down the court and after multiple defenders went after her, she dished out the corner pass to Kaylin Randhawa who then put in the lay-up to go up with 3.5 seconds remaining.

Pitman held Turlock from attempting a shot in the closing seconds and the crowd and bench cheered with loud roars as Turlock’s players looked shocked that their season had now come to an end.

“The girls fought back and stopped the run, back and forth all night, we just had trouble shooting tonight, couldn’t finish inside as easy,” said Musselman. “Pitman played a great game but I think officials let it get too rough at the end, we teach get to the basket but they didn’t call both ways. We will now get ready for next year.”

Turlock’s Hope Salsig led all scorers with a game-high 17 points. Williams added 11. Pitman’s top scorer was Olivia Salafia with 13 points. Washington finished with 11 points and Randhawa had 11.

Pitman’s first round playoff game will be against an opponent  and a time yet to be determined on Feb. 19 or 23.