Gracie Magana

Porterville High School's Gracie Magana (1) attempts to dribble past Strathmore's Yvette Gutierrez (11) in a non-league game, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Strathmore.

Porterville wins season-opener against Strathmore

Porterville High School girls basketball kicked off their season with a 41-34 win at Strathmore on Tuesday.

The defending East Yosemite League and Central Section Div. III champions had their work cut out for them and battled back from down 15-14 at the half to gain the victory against the Div. V Spartans (0-3).

Gracie Magana and Andrea Perez led the Panthers (1-0) with 13 points, while Nseije Ortiz finished with 10. All three Porterville players made three 3-pointers apiece. 

“I like the ball movement, and for the most part, shot selection,” PHS head coach David Kavern said. “At times, we made some poor choices. If we took a shot here, and we would’ve reversed the ball to Gracie or Nseije, they’re wide open on the weak side. But we didn’t make that extra pass.”

Porterville shut out Strathmore’s star player, Jazmine Soto, in the first quarter and led 9-0. Soto found her stroke in the second and scored six points. The Spartans then took a 13-11 lead with a 3-pointer from Yvette Gutierrez late in the half. It was followed by Soto diving for a ball at mid-court and punching it forward to Erika Munoz for an easy lay-up before Magana scored and cut the Spartans lead to one.

In the second half, there were three lead changes. Porterville got more players involved with six different players scoring, rebounded well and outscored Strathmore 14-8. 

Then in the fourth, Perez was nearly unstoppable. The sophomore scored 11 of the team’s 14 points — nine from 3-pointers — to help keep the Spartans at bay. 

Having a big game defensively was Porterville’s Bailee Cook. Cook helped hold Soto to a game-high 16 points — the least amount of points the senior has scored since a 52-41 loss to Porterville last season when she scored 10. 

“It comes with maturity, confidence,” Kavern said about Cook. “Knowing the system. I told her on Saturday, ‘You’re starting on Jazmine. That’s one of the best players in the state.’ I said play her different ways...I thought we did a pretty good job on her. Made her struggle.”

Also for Strathmore, Munoz had 10 points and scored eight in the second half.

Kavern said his team is young, but they were all excited to get the season started finally. They are sure to have some growing pains as they have not had a whole team practice yet.

“We haven’t had our entire roster together for a practice yet,” Kavern said. “We’ve had bits and pieces here and there, so you can sort of tell the rust. We have kids — their first varsity game — running the offense, learning the patterns. I think it’ll get better. We’re awfully young.”

Strathmore continues their tough preseason schedule with a non-league game against Div. I Hanford (0-0) on Thursday. On Friday, Porterville begins league play with Mission Oak at home. Game time is 5 p.m.

The Panthers have won their last 28 league games and are focused on winning their third-straight EYL title.

“Our goal is always to win the league, so hopefully we can get that done,” Kavern said.

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