The Tehachapi Lady Warriors may have had their season come to an official end with an 81-43 loss at Oak Park in the second round of the CIF Division IV State Playoffs, but not before Tehachapi accomplished one more historic feat this season, defeating Hillcrest (Riverside) 55-49 on Feb. 26 for the program’s first-ever girls state basketball victory.
The home game against Hillcrest marked just the third time the Lady Warriors had been included in the state playoffs since girls basketball was started in 1976. Tehachapi had previously lost all prior matchups before they led wire-to-wire in the win over the Trojans.
“Big learning experience for us,” said Tehachapi head coach Jimi Perkins. “We learned about staying together at critical moments, team defense and really just being focused on a game plan … and not playing for ourselves but playing for a group and trying to play for this town of ours.”
Tehachapi started the game on a 15-0 run but at the end of each quarter would find themselves holding off a Hillcrest attempt at a comeback.
The first attempt for the Trojans came three minutes into the second quarter when Perkins was issued a technical foul for a uniform violation on the court. Tehachapi had been warned about the manner in which the players’ shorts were tucked in. Following the warning, a technical was called. Since it was levied against the coach, Perkins was forced to sit on the bench to coach the remainder of the game.
With the momentum from that call and some timely shooting, Hillcrest pulled within 26-21 at the half. Tehachapi would again take control early in the third quarter, but again the Trojans would trail just 40-34 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Lady Warriors built a 12-point lead in the fourth, but Hillcrest wasn’t going away easily. After hitting a series of three-pointers and taking advantage of a few Tehachapi turnovers, the Warriors' lead was cut to 49-46 with 1:16 left.
Irey Sandholt, who missed most of the game due to illness after starting, came up with a key rebound and was fouled on her shot attempt. Making one free-throw extended the Tehachapi lead to four points. Hillcrest then missed two field goal attempts on the next possession before Sara Heier was fouled and made a free throw for Tehachapi to extend the lead to 51-46.
Hillcrest cut the lead to two points with a three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining, but Emily Williams converted on two free-throw attempts to extend the THS lead to 53-49. Hillcrest would miss another three pointer and foul Heier on the rebound. She would make both shots to seal Tehachapi’s first-ever CIF State Playoff victory 55-49.
“Dropping down to D-4 and being blessed with the opportunity to play a home playoff game is always wonderful,” Perkins said. “Just continuing to keep the town support behind us is awesome.”
Teagan Thurman led Tehachapi with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win while Heier scored 15 and Williams added seven points and 12 boards in the win.
The Lady Warriors then traveled to second-seeded Oak Park in the second round and were overcome by the three-point shooting of the Eagles in the 81-44 loss. Thurman led Tehachapi with 19 points and Sandholt did not play for the Lady Warriors as Tehachapi managed just 17-of-60 from the field (28 percent) in the season-ending loss.
Tehachapi’s season comes to an end after a 23-8 mark, the most wins since the 2012-13 season. Tehachapi also was a Central Section Division II semifinalist and won their first-ever South Yosemite League Championship.
“I’m blessed to have this group,” Perkins said. “I’m learning a lot as a rookie coach and dealing with 12 girls sometimes isn’t always easy but I’m going to keep pushing, we’re going to keep getting better and hopefully we can keep this thing going for the years to come.”