The Pitman Pride girls basketball team is league champion for the first time since 2012, after they defeated Turlock High on Wednesday night in a winner-take-all CCAL regular season game that ended 47-33.
“The girls set some goals before the season started about the number of wins, they wanted 20-plus and they got 22, they wanted to win CCAL, and we can check that off,” said Pitman head coach Dustin Curtiss. “Their third goal was to win a playoff game, which is something that the school has never done before.”
Technically they did, but it was via forfeit over Bella Vista in the 2015-2016 season, in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II playoffs. The score read 57-32 in favor of BV before the announcement was made hours later that they had to forfeit the win.
Turlock kicked off the regular season with an 0-5 start, before things started to click. Before Bulldogs head coach Salinda Padilla knew it, they were in league play and 8-1 heading into the regular season finale.
Turlock had also won 10 of 12 heading into Wednesday’s matchup.
“I wouldn’t say there was a lot on the line, since nobody really expected us to be here. So, really, we are just proud to be here, the only ones who believed for the most part was us,” said Padilla about competing in the CCAL final. “We are not done, not the end of the season, so we need to go out and do some soul searching. (Wednesday’s game) wasn’t our best showing and we had a rollercoaster, and that has been what has hurt us was not having many people scoring, it is just maturity.”
Pitman’s league record prior to kicking off the game was also 8-1.
“Honestly, a big game like this, with the league title on the line and all those things of having to win, all the nerves kind of got to us and we didn’t shoot well, that was a little bit of our nervous energy,” said Curtiss.
That didn’t matter as defense was key for this game, said Curtiss.
Pitman’s defense did well, forcing Turlock to turn the ball over 31 times while they held all but five players scoreless for the game. Two players had just two points for Turlock. Three players made up 29 of the 33 points for Turlock.
“Our defense was locked in and our game plan, defensively, was perfect. We played probably our best defensive game, and executed the game plan, perfectly, we did a really good job,” said Curtiss. “That is what won us the game, was the great defense that we played, shots may not go, but we played such great defense that it didn’t matter.”
Pitman scored the first four points and the first 14 of 18 total points scored, while they took their 14-4 lead after the first and led 26-13 at the half.
Slowly, but surely, Turlock began to score by the third, but as they notched a few points, Pitman would even it out and keep their double-digit lead almost intact.
By the start of the fourth, Pitman’s lead had grown to 16-points.
Turlock outscored Pitman in the fourth, 10-5, but Pitman won by 14.
“It is great for the girls, they put in so much time and sometimes so much time during the summer and in the fall,” said Curtiss. “You can tell they want to play basketball and all that hard work for the past four to five years, we have really changed that culture. This is just a reward for all their hard work and effort. They put in so much hard work and time, and they really deserved and earned this.”
Pitman also finishes the regular season by winning eight consecutive and 11 of the last 13.
It’s also the first time that Pitman has swept Turlock in the regular season since the 2015-2016 season.
“Obviously, not our best showing with 31 turnovers and we had a hard time finding the basket, so really not a great half for us, but those were the nerves, and especially where we are now from where we started. We are still playing, our season isn’t over,” said Padilla.
They are not done as they go to 8-2, having lost to just Pitman in league play.
Their overall record is now 14-13.
In Wednesday’s game, Nataly Jimenez finished with a game-high 17 points and teammate Morgan Mitts added 13 points to nine rebounds. Hollie Salsig added eight points.
“It is teamwork here, and before we started, we saw how we could contribute and the girls have grown so much and the confidence has turned things around,” Padilla added.
Pitman had nine different scorers while Jessica Smith scored a team-high 10 points.
Both Turlock and Pitman advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs with an opponent and time yet to be determined. For the latest information on the playoff brackets, visit cifsjs.org.