An eight-point lead slipped away faster than Oakdale High’s varsity girls basketball team could plug the leak, and Hilmar snuck in a 12-2 rally to snare a 47-42 win in the championship game of the recent Ripon Christian Tournament.
Oakdale had topped Delhi and Hughson in consecutive games; the fourth and fifth straight wins of their preseason.
The victories propelled the team into a championship showdown with Hilmar for an opportunity to win their second RC tourney title in as many years.
“We just didn’t have any balance in that last game,” Oakdale coach Gary Smith said. “We should have beat Hilmar, but it was just a matter of having way too many turnovers.”
Hilmar rallied late to improve their preseason standing to an impressive 9-3. Oakdale, still struggling to recovery from a barrage of injuries, ends its preseason at 5-4.
The Mustangs had topped Delhi in a 51-15 landslide to open the tourney on Dec. 27 with 15 points from Cassandra Clark and 12 from Micah Barton.
Clark added 15 and Barton six in a 38-33 win over Hughson the following day. Clark scored 31 points against Hilmar in the finale on Dec. 29, but not enough to overcome the late Yellowjackets push.
Clark and rebounder Andreina Rodriguez each nabbed All Tournament honors for their performances.
Oakdale played without several starters, and lost point guard Naydee Fernandez, post talent Ashley Edwards, senior standout Kelsey Clark and savvy guard Blanca Lara at various points this preseason.
Smith said he probably won’t have the girls back for Oakdale’s first Valley Oak League contests against Weston Ranch and Kimball, but hopes to return them to the lineup for a tough barrage of games against Sierra, East Union, Manteca and Sonora in succession.
The Weston Ranch game was played Tuesday, Jan. 4, though results were not available at press time. Oakdale hosts Kimball on Thursday.