TURLOCK — Here's a riddle for the Central California Conference.
When one of the best girls' basketball teams in your league beats another one of your better teams by 56 points, is it a cause for celebration or concern for the victorious side?
Turlock High was the team on top Thursday night, cruising to an 82-26 victory over Los Banos. The Bulldogs played very well in the contest, controlling the action and committing only eight turnovers, and for that they should be satisfied with their own performance.
But history tells the Bulldogs they also should be concerned.
Two seasons ago, Turlock went 10-2 in the CCC and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Last year the Bulldogs enjoyed a perfect 12-0 league run and carried a 24-3 record into the postseason, and again were bounced on opening night.
"It's real hard," said Turlock coach Salinda Mabie. "We set up the strongest preseason we could, knowing that a lot of teams were rebuilding in the CCC this year."
Technically, the Bulldogs should be one of those rebuilding teams, with Candace Sakuda the only senior seeing significant playing time. Still, Turlock is a confident bunch that had its way with the Los Banos trapping press.
After the Tigers scored on their first possession, the Bulldogs abused the press during an eight-minute layup drill and led 27-4 after eight minutes. When Los Banos continued to press, Turlock kept scoring and led 50-12 at halftime.
To the credit of both teams, the pace of play never wavered, and most impressive was that the Bulldogs never used the ever-widening margin as an excuse to get sloppy.
"No matter what team we play, we're always looking to improve and we're always looking toward the playoffs and getting a good ranking," said Sakuda, who led Turlock with 21 points. "We go hard every time, no matter how strong or weak the other team is."
Kayla Schumann added 20 for Turlock, while Brianna Harden scored 11 for Los Banos (2-2, 8-11.)
There is a team on the horizon ready and willing to push the Bulldogs, who are 4-0 in the CCC and 15-4 overall. On Tuesday, Turlock hosts archrival Pitman for the first of their two meetings.
"Pitman will push us," Mabie said. "They've beaten every team we've beaten, by about the same amount, and they're talented and motivated."
The only other CCC team other than Turlock and Pitman with a winning record is Atwater, which lost to Turlock 81-31 on Jan. 5.
So since the chances to get better against tough competition will be limited for the Bulldogs, the challenge then must come from within if Turlock hopes to peak come playoff time. Mabie is confident this year's group of Bulldogs will answer that challenge.
"I know everyone likes to look at the past, but we're a new team with new players," Mabie said. "The kids who have returned are a lot more confident and have stepped into their roles. We're a different team."
IN THE VALLEY OAK LEAGUE, Central Valley turned in the biggest upset of the season as Lizette Covarrubias did a little bit of everything — 15 points, five reboundds, three assists, two steal and two blocks — and the Hawks shocked Manteca 46-43. It was Manteca's first league loss and drops the Buffaloes game behind first-place East Union — also the Buffs' crosstown rival.
The Hawks displayed a well-rounded team, with Alyssa Long (six points, seven rebounds, three steals) and Phylicia Martinez (eight points, five rebounds, two assists) providing plenty of support. Cynthia Perez scored 10 points for Manteca, but CV held Sharon Washington to just nine points — nine below her season average.
"We had a well-rounded scoring game, seven girls scoring overall," CV coach Jesse Padilla said. "Lizette Covarrubias had a break-out game, scoring 15 points, and hitting two of her three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, sparking a 22-7 run for the Hawks." ...
East Union (4-0, 12-3) stayed perfect in league play, winning its fifth straight overall by beating Oakdale 42-34. The Lancers led by 22 in the second half before the Mustangs closed to within seven in the fourth quarter. Lexy Posz had 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists for the Lancers, who have won three consecutive league titles, and Shalane Jackson had eight points and nine rebounds despite being in foul trouble. Cassandra Clark (14 points) and Carly Barton (13 points) keyed Oakdale's fourth-quarter comeback bid. ...
Brittany Malone (22 points) provided the inside punch, while Kelli Keefe (11) handled the outside scoring to lead Sonora (3-2 VOL) past Lathrop 67-38. The Wildcats trailed by one after a quarter, but hit their stride in the second quarter and roared into halftime with a 37-26 lead. Sonora helped its cause by hitting 12 of 18 free throws. ...
IN THE WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE, Maria Flores scored 22 points and the Wolves (9-7, 3-1) won a touch-and-go battle with Patterson (3-1 WAC), and the 61-54 victory left the teams tied for first place. Livingston went in front early, thanks to Flores and Tara Lau (13), and the Wolves' tough defense held Patterson's Cassie Coble to 12 points. ...
Orestimba (12-5, 2-2) took advantage of Livingston's upset, as it beat Gustine (0-4 SL) 65-45 to move within a game of first place. The Warriors' Sarah Spaulding was at the center of the action, as usual, with 10 points, six assists and seven steals, while Courtney Stettler had 10 points and Roxanne Corella had eight points and six assists. ...
IN THE SOUTHERN LEAGUE, Turlock Christian (14-3, 5-0) used the one-two punch of Molly Farrar (17 points, eight assists) and Amy Wright (14 points, six assists) to post a 69-32 win over Waterford (6-5, 2-3). The Eagles used a 22-point second quarter to take a 37-17 lead into the locker room, and finished 14 of 22 from the free-throw line. The Eagles showed their depth on the perimeter, as Wright, Kara Gabrielson and Candice Balswick each hit a 3-pointer. Farrer and Wright also allowed TC to dominate under the boards, as each pulled down 15 rebounds to finish with double-doubles. ...
IN NON-LEAGUE ACTION, Escalon (11-6) continued its impressive season, as Raymond David scored 16 points on the way to a 62-42 win over Bret Harte (7-8). The Cougars led 31-20 at halftime, though it could have been a larger margin had they shot better from the free-throw line — 12 of 28. The Bullfrogs' Matt Brechtel scored 18 points, but the Cougars held every other Bret Harte to eight points or less. ...
IN THE SOUTHERN LEAGUE, Pierce Chaney and stout center Cody Wichman combined for 30 points and 22 rebounds as Mariposa (3-0, 12-3) overpowered Le Grand (5-7, 2-2) 55-35. Guard Jarrett Miller ran Mariposa's offense efficiently, with seven points, six assists and five rebounds. ...
IN THE HARVEST CHRISTIAN LEAGUE, Big Valley (10-3, 5-0) took sole possession of first place as Brittany Miller (21 points) and Sam Lucero (14) cocmbined to score as many points as Lodi Academy's team in a 44-35 win. It was the Lions' seventh consecutive win.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.