Last year, the 7th grade girls basketball team at Turlock Junior High suffered through a 4-10 season in which they were the repeated victims of a then undefeated Dutcher Diamondbacks team and a talented Prescott Roadrunners squad.
While the outlook for the 2013 season looked bleak based on that run, things instead took a turn for the better this season when 8th grade coach Paul Feldman inherited the squad. Aided by transfer players from schools like Turlock Christian, Mae Hensley, and Vanguard Prepatory to compliment returners like Olivia Salafia, the Tigers have had a season to remember after compiling an 8-2 Canal League record.
“We got four new players that really added a lot to balance the team,” Feldman said. “We were balanced everywhere. It allowed us to not make Oliviah the ball handler and let her hit the low post and put the ball up for us.”
“It felt like we were going to be a good team and I knew we had a good season ahead of us,” TC transfer Hope Salsig said.
The regular-season league turnaround wasn’t enough for TJHS, however, as their two league losses came at the hands of Dutcher while a third loss was dealt by Prescott in a non-league matchup. With only three losses to its name and a desire to earn retribution, TJHS entered last weekend’s Mae Hensley Tournament and earned the glory they were looking for.
The Tigers got a taste of revenge in the first round with a 33-27 victory over defending tournament champion Dutcher before completing their goal with a 38-35 win over Prescott in the championship game. Now, with an overall record of 11-3, TJHS is looking to close out its season with two more wins in the upcoming Mountain View Tournament.
“We always try to end on a good note. Last year we didn’t, so hopefully this year we will,” Salafia said.
TJHS’s players and its coach begin their quest for that high note on Tuesday when they face off against Mountain View. But whatever the outcome of the final two games, the girls of TJHS’s 8th grade team have developed the confidence to erase their less than stellar 7th grade season and give them a bright outlook on the future.
“I play travel basketball, so I really like basketball, and I look forward to playing for Turlock High next year and playing even better competition,” Salsig said.
“I know a lot of the girls we played are going to the same high school, so I look forward to playing with them, too,” Salafia said.