The most important thing the Turlock High girls basketball team wanted from Thursday night’s crosstown rivalry game against Pitman High was to not give in and settle. An outright Central California Conference title was on the line for the Bulldogs, who did not want anything less.
“You walk in here CCC champs,” Turlock coach Salinda Mabie told her players before the game at Pitman High’s Lion’s Den, “and we’re going to walk out CCC champs.”
With a 19-point night from senior forward Sarah McMullen and the ability to stay poised during numerous rallies, the Bulldogs avoided sharing the league title with their archenemies after a 60-51 win in the regular-season finale in front of hundreds of fans.
This is Turlock’s fourth consecutive CCC championship, though it didn’t come easy.
On Feb. 8, the Bulldogs (21-5 overall, 14-1 CCC) suffered a shocking loss to Merced High, something they quickly learned from. In that game, Turlock panicked as the Bears got closer and eventually lost, ending the Bulldogs' 35-game league win streak. So when it came time to play the Pride (20-7, 12-3), Turlock was more than prepared.
It showed early in the second quarter, when the Bulldogs were ahead by 8 points before the Pride began issuing their standard comeback run. Pitman earned a 22-21 lead after an 11-2 surge that saw junior guard Parmine Randhawa finish with a layup and knocking in a 3-pointer.
But the Bulldogs remained calm, finishing the first half on a 13-3 run for a 34-27 halftime lead.
In the locker room, Mabie informed her players: “They’re a comeback team.”
The Pride also have the reigning league MVP in senior Jasmine Washington, who had unspectacular showings in the two previous meetings against Turlock. But this time, on Senior Night, she appeared more aggressive, driving to the basket almost every time she had the ball to finish with a game-high 24 points.
“I think Jasmine finally had a good game against Turlock,” Pitman coach Keith Larsen said about his top scorer, who shot free throws while the crowd chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” “That’s really important for her, because she has really struggled against them. I think people saw that she’s a good player.”
But her play wasn’t enough— nor were the Pride’s numerous comeback efforts to erase a 56-44 deficit with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game after a Nicole Serpa bucket.
Pitman was also facing a team with plenty of weapons, including college-bound senior guard Kayla Schumann, who finished with 16 points, 11 of them coming in the first half.
Both teams will now prepare for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Tournament, with the first round beginning on Tuesday. The playoff brackets will be released Sunday afternoon at about 2 p.m.
Until then, the Bulldogs can enjoy their fourth consecutive league title.
“Now we have something to give us confidence heading to playoffs,” said McMullen, Turlock’s top scorer who was an inside presence all night against the Pride. “That was our goal — all four years.”
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