It’s been six years since the Golden Valley High girls basketball team had reached the playoffs. The Cougars ended that drought with a perfect run through the Central California Conference and a 23-3 record.
Their reward was a No. 7 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs and first-round home game on Tuesday against No. 10 Elk Grove (18-9).
“To make the playoffs and get a home game is very deserving,” said Cougars coach Matt Thissen, whose team won 16 consecutive games. “It’s a nice reward for a lot of hard work. I don’t know a lot about our opponent yet, but I know they are in a tough league and I’m sure they are an outstanding team.”
The Cougars were one of 11 area teams to earn a playoff berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section and just one of three teams that will start the postseason at home.
Despite 23 wins and a league title, a home game wasn’t guaranteed for Golden Valley because of a soft nonconference schedule. Toward the end of the regular season, Thissen was able to schedule some games against Bear Creek (22-5) and Riverbank (15-11).
“That definitely crossed our mind that after winning league and going undefeated we might not get a home game,” Thissen said. “Our schedule wasn’t as strong as it could have been. That schedule was created well before we knew we were adding the Moore sisters (Stephanie and Delia). We’ve already made a couple adjustments for next year.”
Also making the playoffs from the CCC girls were Merced and Buhach Colony. The Bears (13-10) earned a No. 16 seed in Division I and will host No. 17 Edison in a play-in game on Friday night at 7.
If Merced can knock off Edison, it would face top-seeded St. Mary’s, which has won eight consecutive section titles.
The Thunder (15-10) earned the 14 seed in Division II and will open at No. 3 Kimball (27-0) of Tracy on Tuesday.
“They haven’t lost,” BC coach Shane Gentry said. “They’re used to winning. That’s going to be a challenge because they expect to win. Number three seeds usually win. I’m hoping we can match up.”
Other girls teams to make the playoffs were Livingston (12-8) in Division IV. The ninth-seeded Wolves will open at No. 8 San Juan of Citrus Heights on Tuesday. Mariposa (9-14) is the No. 12 seed in Division V and will open at No. 5 Millennium (13-9) of Tracy. Also in Division V, No. 6 Gustine (17-6) will host No. 11 Western Sierra (15-11) of Rocklin.
On the boys side Golden Valley (14-12), Merced (17-10) and Delhi (13-12) will open with play-in games Friday.
The No. 19 Bears play No. 14 Chavez of Stockton and No. 17 Delhi opens against No. 16 San Juan.
Golden Valley is the No. 19 seed in Division II and will travel to Fairfield to face No. 14 Rodriguez (19-8) on Friday in a rematch of a second-round playoff matchup from last year won by the Mustangs 69-64.
After losing their starting five from last year, the Cougars have had to grind their way back to the playoffs this season with the help of seniors Lee McNeill and Isaac Daniel.
“We didn’t score a lot of points at times but we kept fighting and won some tough games,” Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter said. “Not a lot of people on the outside expected this team to make the playoffs. This group bought in. There was self-sacrifice, doing whatever the team needs. I’m happy with what we achieved and I’m ecstatic that we get to play another game on Friday.”
In Division V, No. 3 Mariposa will host No. 14 Hughes Academy of Stockton and No. 12 Le Grand will travel to No. 5 Argonaut of Jackson on Wednesday. The Bulldogs made the playoffs by winning a coin toss after tying Gustine for third place in the Southern League.
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.