Before her team even began league play, Turlock High girls basketball coach Salinda Mabie said the Bulldogs’ undefeated streak in the Central California Conference was in jeopardy. It was a bold statement, but also a logical one.
This season, each league team would play each other three times after the departure of Los Banos High. Mabie has said it’d be tough to sweep a team. And she was right all along, though that’s not to say the Bulldogs’ 51-50 loss to Merced High on Tuesday night didn’t hurt, ending a 35-game CCC win streak.
Yes, it was a painful, learning experience.
“The challenge after a loss is how players will respond to it,” Mabie said. “We told the team we expect growth, and a new determination. We have to be more than physically ready for playoffs. We have to be mentally ready. Losing to Merced only reinforces that philosophy. Now it is up to the team to respond. We believe that when you are not challenged, old habits resurface. We are trying new things in practice to keep them challenged and thinking under pressure.”
The Bulldogs had the ideal response two days later on Thursday night, as they stomped past Atwater High with a 70-45 victory. Turlock is now 12-1 in the CCC, just ahead of crosstown rival Pitman High (11-2). The teams will play each other in the season finale at Pitman High on Thursday at 7:15 p.m.
After that, it’s the postseason.
The Bulldogs hold down the No. 3 position in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I power ratings, which determine the playoff seedings for each division. There’s a chance that Turlock will move down because of the loss to Merced.
The final power ratings come out Monday, as the playoff brackets will be released Feb. 20.
The Bulldogs will look to sweep Pitman, but they know it won’t be easy.
“All along I have said that it would be hard to beat a team three times,” Mabie said, “and if we had a bad night, Merced and Pitman had the capability to jump on the opportunity. Losing to Merced can only help our team to take the loss and learn from it. I challenged the team to learn from that game and to step up the intensity and mental part of their game, so that when the pressure is on, we are better ready to handle it.”
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