The before-Christmas portion of the high school basketball season may not produce earth-shattering news, but it does offer a glimpse at upcoming stars.
Turlock Christian freshman Halie Bergman is one of those discoveries.
The 5-foot-9 Bergman, a Hilmar resident, has produced dazzling numbers for the 7-0 Eagles. She played barely half the game during Thursday night's 80-34 waltz over Victory Christian but still scored 26 points, one below her average.
It's more than statistics compiled against weaker opposition, however, that casts attention her way. Simply, the girl can play.
"She has a full set of skills. She's already one of the best players in the valley," Turlock Christian coach Edwin Santiago said. "Other coaches say she is the real deal. She has the passion for the game."
Bergman, a shooting guard or wing for TC, is the starting point guard for the East Bay Xplosion, the popular travel team coached by Mark Anger. The Paris twins played for the Xplosion, a team which draws talent and often bounces it toward Division I collegiate programs.
Though she's only begun her freshman season, Bergman already has been tabbed Turlock Christian's best player since guard Lisa Minturn two decades ago. Minturn eventually was inducted to the Cal State Stanislaus Hall of Fame.
Elsewhere, the Hilmar Christmas Classic — sponsored by the Hilmar-Irwin-Stevinson Lions Club — got under way with the Yellowjackets' 39-29 win over Lathrop. Stesha Brazil scored 16 points for Hilmar, which meets Orestimba tonight at 7. Orestimba advanced by beating Summerville 38-20 behind Sarah Spaulding's 15 points and seven rebounds. Lathrop, a senior-less team which meets Summerville at 4, was led by Jasmine Elder with 10 points.
Ceres (4-4), one of the leading contenders for the Valley Oak League title, downed Hughson 45-30. The Bulldogs featured their 1-2 punch, Jode Johnson (17 points) and 6-2 center Jamie Beck (14). Madelyn Birchall led Hughson (5-3) with 17 points.
At Grace Davis, the Spartans (6-5) used a full-court man-to-man press to get the jump on Manteca (3-3) en route to a 62-39 win. Sophomore Kelci Haueter starred with 22 points and 10 rebounds and junior Anecia Brown finished with 14 points. Both sparkled while Davis built a 39-22 halftime lead. Sharon Washington topped the Buffaloes with 10 points.
Central Catholic knotted its season record at 5-5 by beating Brookside Christian 59-38, thanks to Brooke Reno's 14 points. Jourdan Vavitt of BC was the game's leading scorer with 23.
Southern League play opened with Waterford's 52-46 win over Denair. Nycole McHenry anchored the Wildcats (6-2, 1-0) with 19 points.
The 8-0 Turlock High Bulldogs have advanced to the semifinals of the Tracy Winter Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament.
The Bulldogs quickly assumed control to defeat host Tracy 73-50. Turlock, which led 18-9 after the first period and 38-22 at halftime, meets Vallejo tonight at 6 at Tracy. Vallejo outscored Weston Ranch 22-4 in the fourth quarter for a 61-51 win. Modesto (5-7) was sent to the consolation bracket by West 76-49.
Stanislaus District teams enjoyed mixed results in the consolation bracket. Enochs (6-5) dropped Lathrop 60-22 as Gilbert Martinez scored 15 points and Mircea Dumitru had 13. Livingston (8-1), beaten by West in the first round, withstood a second-half rally by Ceres (3-3) to win 66-63. Brian Alvarez paced the Wolves with 16, and Ceres' Katero Lebeau was the game's top scorer with 18. Johansen (6-3) bounced back with a 68-57 victory over Stagg. Dakarai King, a 6-foot-0 senior, hit four 3-pointers and finished with 27 points for the Vikings.
The Tracy Holiday lineup today: Semifinals at Tracy, Vallejo vs. Turlock at 6, and Valley vs. West at 7:30; consolation at West, Golden Valley vs. Livingston at 6, and Johansen vs. Enochs at 7:30; winners outbracket at Tracy, Franklin vs. Modesto at 3, and Weston Ranch vs. Tracy at 4:30; consolation outbracket at West, Los Banos vs. Ceres at 3, and Stagg vs. Lathrop at 4:30.
Ripon Christian's four-team tournament tips off tonight when the Knights (5-1) welcome three teams which either won or shared conference titles a year ago. RC is off to a good start behind the 23 points and 13.5 rebounds by senior center Tyler Goslinga. Central Catholic (4-2) meets Linden (4-3) at 6, followed by Ripon Christian vs. Millennium. The third-place game begins Saturday's program at 5.
At the Denair Invitational, the host Coyotes (3-4) used 17 points by junior guard Clayton McDonald and 12 points by 6-4 senior Mitch Hilton to stop Don Pedro 65-46. In other tournament games, it was Delhi over Venture Academy 81-37, Hughson over Turlock Christian 57-46 and Le Grand over Smith Flat 66-24. Today's games feature Venture Academy vs. Don Pedro at 4:30, Le Grand vs. Hughson at 6 and Delhi vs. Denair at 7:30.
Hilmar (5-2) opened the boys side of its Christmas Classic with a 76-48 win over Big Valley Christian. Guard Noel Zaldana keyed the Yellowjackets with 18 points, followed by 6-4 Daniel Greenleaf and guard Josh Tung with 13 apiece. Jon McCall, a 6-4 sophomore center, led Big Valley Christian (3-3) with 10 points.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.