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Young 'Jackets eye postseason
Hilmar girls bball
Senior Cookie Cruz of Hilmar makes her way inside the paint for a layup during the fourth quarter of Wednesdays win over Denair High. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

When Don Inman took over the Hilmar High girls basketball program back in the 2010-11 season, the Yellowjackets made the playoffs in his first year at the helm. Four years later, the 'Jackets have made it to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, however, have fell in all their respective opening rounds.


Heading into this season, things are really looking to shape up for the 'Jackets who are competing in a different Trans Valley League now that Modesto Christian has vacated and they look to hopefully end that first round slump.


“We have had some success in the past and we are going to try and build on that with this team,” Inman said. “The attitude is great. The hustle is great and we are a young team and we will see some growing pains at times but I feel the team is coming together very well.”


The team is off to a hot start at 2-0, having scored 61 and 66 points respectively in those contests. Although it is too early to make postseason predictions, this team is already looking much more improved than the previous season after returning two key seniors and the addition of four talented underclassmen.


“I am feeling very optimistic with this team,” said Inman. “We are very young. We have two freshmen and two sophomores that are playing and getting some extensive playing time already.”


The underclassmen consist of Madisen Petersen, Kristin Bello, Hailey Chavez and Erin Benning among the four juniors and three seniors on this year's team.


Kinsey Pettigrew and Cookie Cruz, with their ball handling skills and great shooting, are the leaders of this team as seniors. The Yellowjackets will also benefit from the Peterson sisters, Sydney and Madisen, who both stand over 6 feet tall.


“I feel we are faster and we finally got a little bit of height, so we are looking at the possibility of maybe being able to play the post-game which will be refreshing for us,” Inman said. “Kinsey and Cookie have had a lot of time to play together and we just have a lot of enthusiasm with this group.”


Another big difference in the 'Jackets game this upcoming year will be their up tempo pace on both sides of the ball with their quick guards in Pettigrew and Cruz.


“This year we are looking to improve our tempo and play at a faster pace, trying to get on the other side of the court as quickly as possible. And this year we have the bench to be able to do it,” Inman said. “We have the athleticism. It's a bit of change but it's coming along in burst and it's already an improvement.”


Inman will not put any expectations on the season thus far, but rather will let the team speak for itself.


“Right now it's a cliché, but we are just looking at it as one game at a time,” he added. “It's a young group, outside of our three, they are all new to varsity so we are trying not to look too far down, but TVL will be a dog fight this year, everyone is so tough, right now we are just worried about the next game.”


Hilmar's next game will be a home contest against Pitman at 7 p.m. Monday.