Panthers into the finals
Valley championship game is Saturday at Fresno State
After a semifinal exit last season, Porterville High School girls water polo is into this weekend’s CIF Central Section Division II championship showdown after downing fifth-seeded Garces Memorial in Wednesday’s playoff game at home.
Despite advancing to their first Valley final as a second-year Div. II program, the top-seeded Panthers’ biggest cheer of the evening came when Ahna Davis — who wears cap No. 16 — came in off the bench and scored a shot-clock buzzer beater off an assist from senior Shyanne Rainey for the final score of the game with 9 seconds left to play.
Now the three-time, back-to-back East Yosemite League champion Panthers (24-5, 8-0 EYL) are looking to add another title to their season with a Valley final win on Saturday. Playing at the Fresno State Aquatics Center at 1:15 p.m., Porterville faces sixth-seeded, defending Valley champion Redwood (21-11). The Rangers upset second-seeded Madera (22-6) 10-8 on the road in a semifinal game Wednesday.
“They’re really excited,” first-year PHS head coach Evan Thomas said. “We’ve been taking it one game at a time and now we get to take the final game, and that’s super exciting for us. I’m not sure who we play yet, but either team we’re ex-
ed to play. We’ve already played Redwood earlier in the season. That was at the very beginning, so they’ll be a much different team now, but so are we ... We’re super excited about it.”
In the teams’ first meeting on Aug. 28, the Panthers beat the Rangers 12-3.
Thomas said playing, and beating, a team multiple times in one season becomes harder each time, but after the first five minutes of the first
quarter against Garces (17-8, 5-3 EYL) — a team Porterville defeated 16-7 and 11-8 previously this season — that didn’t seem to be the case.
Twice in the first quarter the Rams made it a one-goal game, but uninterrupted goals from Rainey and juniors Alyssa Bodoh and Johanna Scheer through the final 2:24 of the quarter put the Panthers up 6-2 going into the second. Porterville outscored Garces 2-1 and 6-2 in the second and third quarters respectively, but equaled Garces with just two goals in the fourth.
“I’ve learned that any time you play a team more than twice, it gets more and more difficult to beat them,” Thomas said. “And the Garces girls have improved so much since the first time we saw them in the season. They did a great job tonight, but by the end of the game we were still where we thought we should be. We had a few things that were good learning experiences for us, for (Saturday). I’m glad we had a good contest against them, that was important to us for (Saturday) so that we can take some of those things from this
game and, you know we have the next couple of days, and then we can put them to use in Saturday’s game.”
From the hole set, Rainey dominated to finish with seven goals, two assists and one steal. Senior Rosemary Chapman became problematic for the Rams in the second half and totaled five goals, three assist and one steal.
“She’s been one of those people on our team all season,” Thomas said about Rainey. “Her and Rose have been those two people we look to game in and game out. Depending which one is
doing it tonight, which one is doing it Saturday, which one has done it before — that doesn’t matter. They take the role on and they do it perfectly. It was fun to watch tonight.”
Also for Porterville, Scheer had two goals, four assists and two steals, while Bodoh finished with one goal, three assist and two steals. Senior goalie Samantha Rainey also recorded 11 blocks and one assist.
“We had a couple of goals this season,” Thomas said. “We had the goal to win league and we did that. We had the goal to
win a Valley championship, and we’re hoping to do that Saturday.”
BOYS WATER POLO No. 2 Hanford 21 No. 6 Strathmore 15
Sixth-seeded Strathmore (19-10, 6-2 ESL) lost 21-15 on the road to second-seeded Hanford (16-13) in a CIF Central Section Division III semifinal game on the road Wednesday.
The Spartans were down 7-3 in the first quarter and 13-7 by the end of the second. Both teams scored three goals then five goals, respectively, in the third and fourth quarters.
Porterville High School’s Shyanne Rainey, right, scores a goal from the hole Wednesday, Nov. 7, during the first half of a game against Garces Memorial High School in a semifinal match of the CIF Central Section Division II playoffs at Porterville High School. The Panthers advance to the Valley final on Saturday.
Porterville High School goalie Samantha Rainey keeps her eyes on the ball facing a Garces Memorial High School shot Wednesday, Nov. 7.