The girls basketball programs for Turlock and Pitman high schools are on the upswing and this season will be a testament to that.
Fresh off a second place finish in the Central California Conference and postseason run just a season ago, the Pitman Pride are hopeful for similar success or better this year.
“I thought last year we played with a lot more energy and I hope we do that this year and we should have good senior leadership that will push us,” said Pitman head coach Dustin Curtiss.
Last year's Turlock squad excelled on defense, allowing just 43.2 points per game, but their offense was limited, scoring just 44.9.
“We work on defense a lot and work on how we stop teams and then it can turn into bigger leads,” said Turlock coach Candace Sakuda.
This led to four league losses that were decided by four points or less for the Bulldogs, which went 4-6 in CCC play with an overall record of 13-12.
“Right now we are working on fine tuning the little things,” said Sakuda. “They've been here for a while together but it’s about getting the kinks out and learning from our close losses. We have a clear vision of who we are playing and learning from our past mistakes.”
Pitman was 17-8 last season and return two of their standouts from that playoff squad in Kaylin Randhawa and Cerah Moren.
“Kaylin is very talented and is getting a lot of college looks and Cerah is coming back and her energy is amazing,” said Curtiss. “She plays so fast and obviously she is going to Arizona State on a track scholarship so she can move.”
Moren and Randhawa were the team’s top two scorers last year. Randhawa was first with 12.5 and 6.2 rebounds per game while Moren averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds. Both averaged over two steals per game as well.
Pitman will also return Olivia Salafia and Andrea Selkow.
Pitman earned a spot in the Division II Sac-Joaquin Section tournament after winning their first game in a forfeit decision over Bella Vista and followed up with a 67-30 loss to Elk Grove in the quarterfinal round.
“We did get a taste of playoffs last year, but the way we moved on was a goofy thing but obviously we want to build on that,” said Curtiss. “We have to play with more energy and aggressive as well. Things we saw firsthand now hopefully we use to be productive.”
It won't be an easy task for Pitman, especially in a league like the CCC.
Turlock welcomes Jada and Dezmine Washington, who were with the Pride just a season ago, and the team will boast an already veteran squad led by the Williams sisters in Shea and Jaydon and a pair of standout guards.
Sarah Musselman and Hope Salsig are two of the best ball handlers in the area and will help the 'Dogs in the guard position as juniors.
“We are really excited for the now juniors and everyone,” said Sakuda. “It’s looking really promising, especially with our transfers in the Washingtons and Christina Eldridge of Denair.”
The only downfall is the three new Bulldogs will have to sit out until January due to the transfer rules.
“As far as our eight we have during preseason, we are solid in our starting five but we will definitely be a lot stronger when we have the Washingtons come out and they are looking forward to the season,” said Sakuda. “They have high expectations for themselves; we just need to take it one step at a time.”
“They know what they are expected to do, they just have to go on and do it,” added Curtiss about his team's duties for the upcoming season. “I know it’s tough in our league but looking at everyone, I truly think it's wide open this year. I just don't see one powerful team, we have about four of them and if we can execute we will be successful.”
The next game for Pitman will be against Grace Davis at home at 7:15 p.m. Thursday.
Turlock will take on Manteca at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.