FRESNO — Golden Valley’s girls basketball team sat in the seats at Selland Arena a couple of games prior to its own. The players and coaches watched as other teams celebrated, donned their championship hats and T-shirts and posed for photographs.
At Selland Arena for the first time in program history, the Bulldogs were finally close enough to envision winning a title themselves.
That dream died after a 43-37 loss to No. 4 seeded Reedley-Immanuel (23-9) on Saturday in the Central Section Division III championship game. It’s been a historic year for the No. 2 seed Golden Valley (26-7), which set a team record with 26 wins, but it was a painful ending in to the section playoffs.
“It hurts when you’re so close,” Golden Valley coach Curt Wilson said. “... We played a better team who came out and played very well. All credit goes to Immanuel. They were able to control the tempo of the game and they put us in a position where we played at their pace, their style.”
Much of Immanuel’s style revolved around starting center Ava Galpin, who was by far the tallest and biggest girl on the court at all times. She finished with 26 points and 18 rebounds. Galpin had 12 offensive rebounds and went 10-for-26 from the field.
Galpin, No. 34, routinely knocked her defenders down to clear a path for a layup. Golden Valley’s tallest players came only up to about Galpin’s shoulders
“The reality was, you're not gonna stop 34 anyway,” Wilson said. “There wasn’t a game plan to stop a 6-foot-2 player when I don't have a single girl that’s above 5-9. The game plan was could we make the other girls be the reason why they lose.
“They didn’t lose the game,” Wilson continued after listing Immanuel’s other four starters, “and they put 34 in a position to where she was able to win the game.”
Galpin had 13 points in a decisive third quarter when Immanuel outscored Golden Valley, 18-12.
Offensively, the Bulldogs couldn't hit their shots. The all-around height of Immanuel affected their shots, Golden Valley center Tiffany Amos said. Amos finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Golden Valley shot 6.7 percent in the first quarter (1-for-15) and 9.7 percent in the first half (3-for-31). It stayed in the game with five total 3-pointers.
If he would have done anything differently, Wilson would have made his team practice on an old net in the middle of a street leading up to the game.
“In all honesty, it wasn't their defense that allowed us to miss,” Wilson said. “We missed because we were unfamiliar with shooting on that court. Mind you, they played on that and all credit goes to them, but we’re a jump shooting team that couldn't shoot jump shots. I definitely think that got us.”