Section champ Selma High gets No. 11 seed in NorCal Div. III girls playoffs

Selma High 71, Fresno High 39

Lady Bears celebrate a Valley championship on Feb. 23, 2019 at Selland Arena
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Lady Bears celebrate a Valley championship on Feb. 23, 2019 at Selland Arena

The matchup between the CIF Central Section Division III top two seeds was technically over by halftime.

Balanced scoring, hot shooting and dominating defense added up to a 53-16 halftime lead for top-seeded Selma High as it cruised to a 71-39 victory last Saturday against No. 2 seed Fresno High at Selland Arena.

Selma shot 59.4 percent in the first half, and 48.4 percent for the game.

All starters scored in double digits by the end of the third quarter.

Sophomore center Yesenia Sánchez paved the way with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.

Senior guard Rachel Vieira pitched in with 15 points and 7 steals.

Other points came from junior Clarissa Moreno (13 points, 3 steals), sophomore Elena Loutherback (10 points), and, sophomore Audrey González (10 points).

Fresno High senior guard Iris Torres gets defended by Selma High sophomore guard Elena Loutherback during the CIF Central Section Division III championship game. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

The win extended Selma’s winning streak to 10 games and pushed its record to 28-3.

Their reward: A No. 11 seed in the Northern California Division III playoffs that saw higher seedings in the Southern California playoffs go to section Division IV competitors McFarland High (No. 1) and Porterville High (No. 4).

Selma will open the SoCal playoffs on the road against No. 6 Woodside Priory on Tuesday (Feb. 26). Woodside Priory is 15-12 and led by 6-foot-4 senior Ila Lane who averages 17.8 points a game and 11.9 rebounds.

Selma’s only losses this season have come against Porterville (64-62 in the season opener), Kennedy of La Palma (57-55), and, Kingsburg (67-60). Selma defeated Kingsburg, 60-40, to share the Central Sequoia League title with the Lady Vikings.

If the Lady Bears play like they did against Fresno High (22-9), Selma should make a push in the playoffs.

“No matter what the score is, you have to keep pushing,” said Sánchez about Selma’s game intensity. “The halftime score didn’t matter.”

Sánchez, a 6-foot-2 player who has steadily improved this season, is looking forward to the playoffs.

“We have unfinished business,” she said. “We want to keep going.”

Selma head coach Paul Remig believes his players are battle-tough for the playoffs.

“This group has spent the last 11 months – and some of them many years – preparing for this moment,” said Remig. “The biggest thing we try to emphasize is that if you’re prepared, if you worked hard, there’s nothing to be nervous about because you’re ready.”

Selma High sophomore center Yesenia Sánchez gets a block in the CIF Central Section Division III championship game against Fresno High. JUAN ESPARZA LOERA

The pressure as the No. 1 seed is fine, he said.

“The No. 1 seed is an accomplishment, and it’s a credit to what the girls have done up to that point,” said Remig. “We’ve had several games where we’ve had to play with poise down the stretch and that has benefitted us in that we’ve had to pay attention to detail and just be confident in our abilities.

“Today, they played like that the entire game. That’s a great credit to them.”

Selma has relied on the leadership of Viera and the production of Sánchez.

Remig said Sánchez is no longer the freshman who was a bit tentative.

“We emphasize being physical and being strong,” said Remig. “She has just embraced that both physically and mentally.

“It’s just a pleasure to watch her grow.”

Fresno High, which went into the game with a 13-game winning streak, was led by junior guard Nataly Mata, senior Tylazsia Perry and sophomore Erin Williams with 10 points each. Williams had 14 rebounds.