There was an uproar in the visitors’ locker room on Wednesday night at Buhach Colony when the Pitman High girls basketball team visited for their penultimate league contest.
And now, the Pride are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
This after topping BC, 57-45, in what eventually became more than just a game; it was an emotional moment for the entire team, especially the four seniors who had gone through the turmoil over the previous two seasons and to finally clinch a postseason berth felt unreal—it felt like it was time.
“The girls were really excited, they were jumping around the locker room and high-fiving each other,” said Pitman head coach Dustin Curtiss. “To do it for the four seniors we have, through all the struggles and now get the playoff experience they said that finally all the hard work has paid off.”
It definitely has, in many ways.
The season has provided the Pride with many obstacles throughout the year, including a rough league patch that saw Pitman go up and down in the Central California Conference.
Although the Pride didn't leave the decision up to chance, they took momentum early after falling to Golden Valley in the opener. From that point on, Pitman went on to win five straight league games — but since then have gone 2-2 in the very competitive and evenly matched CCC.
“We have had to play the waiting game very patiently and it got to me sometimes, but sometimes when you work the hardest and are the most patient it can also be the most rewarding,” said Curtiss.
On Thursday, the Pride were ready to make history and it started after a back and forth opening quarter that ended with Buhach up 12-11 after knocking in three shots from behind the arc.
In the second, Pitman outscored Buhach 15-5 then went into the locker room with a 26-17 lead at the half.
Pitman never trailed again and led by as many as 19 points after the third quarter with a 49-30 lead.
They went on to put up 23 points in the third quarter with Mika Jimenez scoring eight of her 13 in that quarter alone.
“The offensive production in the third was the best we have had all year long,” said Curtiss. “We shot well all around. It was a great shooting display from us, we made inside shots, outside, fast break and post-ups, they all contributed to do well on offense.”
With a 6-3 record, Pitman is two games ahead of Turlock, Merced and Atwater, all three of which are 4-5 heading into their final game of the year on Tuesday, battling for the last playoff spot.
Tuesday's finale will be even more important for the Turlock Bulldogs, who must win in order to even have a chance at talking about playoffs.
It won't be easy for Turlock, since Pitman has been one of the better and more consistent defensive teams all year in the CCC.
“Turlock is next and the idea that clinching a spot is done but we want to improve our seed if we can...the intensity will be there, we don't need to do much pep talk for crosstown games,” said Curtiss. “It will be intense and a big environment, but it will be less stress that is for sure so we will see what happens.”
Pitman and Turlock are currently the second and third best scoring defense in the CCC, behind GV.
Turlock will host Pitman on Tuesday in the league finale at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.