Something special is developing at the Turlock High gym.
The Turlock varsity girls basketball team is now 7-2 after competing in two highly competitive tournaments and nine pre-league contests with the latest coming on Saturday in a 47-42 win over Patterson to earn first place at the Tigers' tourney.
“The biggest reason [for our success] is we return three underclassmen key players from last year who have a full season under their belt,” said Turlock coach Mark Musselman.
Those three include Sarah Musselman, Hope Salsig and Jaydon Williams.
Turlock also has benefitted from the return of senior Shea Williams, who has been averaging a double-double with and 14 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Her sister, sophomore Jaydon — the tallest player on the team at nearly 6-foot-1 — is also averaging close to a double-double with 12.5 points and 9.7 rebounds.
“Shea is back healthy and Jaydon is finally playing up to her ability and still realizing what she can do with a basketball in her hands,” said Musselman.
Turlock started 4-5 last season. Eventually ending with a winning season for the first time in half a decade, but this team already seems to be different than any other within the past recent years.
They want more. They want to surprise everyone and are currently playing like a team with postseason aspirations.
Turlock hasn't won a Central California Conference title since 2010-11.
That year, the Bulldogs made the playoffs and went 14-1 in CCC play, along with a 22-6 overall record, including 12 consecutive victories during the season.
“They are all unselfish and getting the ball to whoever is hot,” said Musselman. “They are playing great team defense and that is all we focus on when we go back to practice, we are just getting better every time we touch the ball.”
The competition the Bulldogs have faced has been fierce and some of the top teams in California.
Two of the losses were to top 50 ranked Lincoln of Stockton (25) and powerhouse Modesto Christian (42). Turlock lost to both by single digits earlier in the year.
“It goes back to when those girls were 10 years old; three have been together since then and teaching them man to man defense,” said Musselman. “...since last year our defense has been good and it just continues to improve since we stress defense.”
The stress of defense during practice seems to have helped the Bulldogs so far, who are improving as the days carry on.
Since losing to MC back on Dec. 9, Turlock has won four straight, including a first place result in this past weekend’s Patterson tournament.
It started on Thursday with a 68-30 win over Hughson, followed by a 56-43 win over Kimball on Friday, ending with a 47-42 win over Patterson on Saturday.
“With Sarah out due to suffering a concussion and another player out of the country, we finished Saturday with just six players,” said Musselman. “That is how we finished and I told them they can't get tired, we can't afford it.”
They didn't even think about it, after earning the top spot in the bracket heading into their final stretch of pre-league.
“Really it’s just trying to improve every game and practice, that is our focus, we are not looking ahead — next game, next practice and see where we are down the stretch,” said Musselman.
“They just need to keep working at practice, that is key, practice has to be more difficult than games. If you do that, games are easy and they push themselves at practice, they are all getting better.”
Next game for Turlock is against Livingston in the girls gym at 4 p.m. today.