Last year Turlock High took the CCC title but it was Pitman High's turn this time around. Thursday marked the third and final matchup between the Bulldogs (9-6 CCC) and Pride (11-4 CCC) this season and Pitman's 45-33 victory marked the first ever basketball championship for the school.
Pitman entered Bulldog Arena tied with Buhach Colony High atop the CCC, a game ahead of Turlock. A Pride loss would have resulted in the Thunder taking the crown but Pitman's defense made sure that didn't happen. Although the cross town rivals opened up the game with slow offensive performances, Pitman's defense stole and intercepted the basketball from the Bulldogs early and often. For more than half of the first quarter the two teams struggled to find the basket and with three minutes left in the quarter the score was tied 4-4. When the second quarter began Pitman led 9-5.
"In a game like this it's not about how pretty it is, you just got to win," Pitman's head coach Keith Larson said.
Claire Severson's three-point shot got the ball rolling for Turlock early in the second quarter followed by the same from Lindy Avila minutes later, which tied the game 15-15, giving the Bulldogs hope. Pitman's defense continued to pile on the pressure, however, leading the way for a 6-0 run to finish out the first half.
The Bulldogs scored the first points of the second half, but the Pride's Marissa Marable (14 points) immediately responded with a three-pointer to maintain Pitman's momentum. Marable hit another three during a Pride run of 12 unanswered points, which also included a Morgan Renshaw (13 points) triple bonus. By the fourth quarter Pitman had the game and its first conference title all but in the bag. Turlock orchestrated a run of nine unanswered points to finish the game but by then the players and those in attendance knew the Pride were the champs.
"We coached them every possession and we just grinded it out," Larsen said. "They don't get it now but when they drop that banner it'll mean something to them."
Pitman, who won eight of its last nine games to take the title, now waits to see who its first playoff opponent will be. Turlock, who lost five of their last six games after winning eight in a row, will likely not participate in the post season. Playoffs are expected to begin Monday.