Haley Bettencourt and her Sierra Pacific High School girls basketball squad have made Sierra Pacific program history to host a state regional semifinal this Saturday night.
The Golden Bears (30-5) of Hanford will host Hueneme High of Oxnard (15-17, including 9 losses by forfeit) for the Division V regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Saturday (March 17). Hueneme has not had a winning season since 1990.
Sierra Pacific defeated visiting Grace Brethren (Simi Valley) 56-41 on March 13.
Saturday’s winner advances to the Division V championship game in Sacramento on March 23. The other half features Lowell (San Francisco) against Durham High School (Durham).
Bettencourt, a 5-foot-5 senior point guard, commands the squad, while averaging 11.9 points per game. Sophomore point guard Celeste Lewis leads the Golden Bears with 12.1 points per game thus far this season.
“Hard work; I pride us on hard work. I think this is one thing that we build on each other,” said Bettencourt, who led the Golden Bears with 19 points, 10 more than teammates Alana Roberts and Lewis, who each finished with 9 points. Roberts also had 13 rebounds.
Lewis and Bettencourt also finished the East Sequoia League in No. 5- and No. 6, respectively, in the league standings for points per game.
Sierra Pacific head coach Amy Bush is excited about the opportunity to show off the level of play for the home town fans, which were nearly 400 in the win against Grace Brethren.
“This is it, we’re going to focus on what we need to do,” said Bush, a former UCLA and Gonzaga player.
She added there was a lot of movement from upper division schools playing down, explaining the Division V placement for Sierra Pacific. Her squad remained undefeated at 10-0 this season in the East Sequoia League.
The Golden Bears’ program was helped built over the last eight years by Bush. She assisted former head coach Nikki Mendes before assuming the head coach position in December 2015. Take note, it was three years ago in 2015 that the Golden Bears entered January with an overall record of 3-11. It was in 2017 that Sierra Pacific won its first Valley title, a Division IV victory over Strathmore.
An athletic banner over the home court displays the squad’s last three East Sequoia League titles.
Bettencourt, who is considering competing for College of the Sequoias after graduation, believes after six seniors graduate this year, the Golden Bears will remain formidable in the league.
“We wouldn’t be here without the younger generations on this team. They are phenomenal. As the years go on, they will get better and better, and this program will continue to do great things,” said Bettencourt.
Bettencourt reverted to about two weeks ago, when the top-seeded Golden Bears lost to Immanuel 58-51 in the Central Section Division V final at the Selland Arena.
“That’s a real tough subject for me. We tried our best, that’s all I can say, we did everything we could and put it on that floor. We couldn’t hit, they were hitting; they were a really aggressive team, but, to be honest, I think we got a little gassed,” added Bettencourt.
“We need to remain focused on these next three days of practice. We need to be working hard in practice, so that we can translate this into the game on Saturday.”