'Dogs claim 2nd straight CCC crown

TURLOCK -- Turlock High coach Salinda Mabie was going to turn Tuesday's basketball game into a baseline-to-baseline sprint, at all costs.

"We've got the depth to play that game and we knew it would tire out (Los Banos' Brooke) Silva," she said. "We got the game we wanted."

As a result, Turlock got to celebrate its second Central California Conference title in a row -- back-to-back after a 25-year drought.

Point guard Rachel Finnegan set the frenzied pace with 22 points, 11 steals and seven assists as Turlock beat Los Banos 62-34 for its 22nd win.

One more and the Bulldogs will tie last year's total of 23 wins -- believed to be a school record.

"They haven't kept a lot of records, but maybe we'll start doing that now," said Mabie, who has built one of the Stanislaus District's top programs since arriving six years ago. "We've all put a lot of effort into building this program."

There's no reason to believe Turlock won't continue to be successful even after Finnegan, The Bee's Player of the Year as a junior, graduates.

Four of the five starters and the first three off the bench are underclassmen, an athletic group featuring sophomore guard Kayla Shumann and junior forwards Shanice Brown and Candace Sakuda. The latter two were key to holding Silva, the District's top scorer at 21 points per game, to 12. Silva averaged 27 points the last five games.

"We were physical with her and kept her running up and down the court," said Brown, who went elbow to elbow with Los Banos' center. "We've got a good group, both inside and outside. Me, I like to play aggressive inside."

Turlock (22-3, 10-0) is The Bee's No. 1 large school and has won 11 in a row since losing to Rocklin on Dec. 30. It's also No. 2 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I power ratings.

"We're seeing the results of the last five years we spent developing this program," Mabie said. "Even without Rachel, we expect it to continue. We've got momentum going."

But finding the one player capable of replacing the versatile Finnegan will be difficult.

The four-year starter hit everything from a 3-pointer to a driving layup -- she was fouled on the layup, and got up off the court to hit the free throw -- and had nine rebounds as Turlock won the rebounding battle 38-25.

Finnegan also made sure the game stayed to Turlock's liking. She pushed the pace at every opportunity, whipping bounce passes to teammates as defenders approach her.

That took Silva out of the game in the second half. After scoring nine points in the first half, Silva scored just two in the second half.

She took only four shots after halftime and missed three of her second-half free throws.

"Silva is a good player, especially inside, but if we can keep her running, she's going to get tired," said Mabie, whose club outscored Los Banos 29-16 in the second half. "Rachel did a good job of maintaining the fast pace.

"She also made sure everyone was involved for us. She passed up some opportunities to take a shot, instead finding someone who was closer to the basket with a better shot."

Finnegan's sharpest pass came as the third quarter was coming to a close. Racing downcourt with the clock winding down, the 5-foot-9-inch guard came to an abrupt stop at the free-throw line and set up for a shot.

As the Tigers (13-11, 5-5) ran to defend Turlock's top scorer, Finnegan skipped a one-hop bounce pass to Christian Richardson under the basket. Richardson flipped a shot off the backboard for a 47-26 as the buzzer sounded.

"Rachel does that so well," Mabie said.